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Dental Care for elders / Geriatric Dentistry

What do you mean by Geriatric Dentistry?
  This is the field of dentistry where older adults are provided dental care. These include diagnosis, prevention, management and treatment of issues that associate with age-related diseases.

The mouth can be considered as the ‘mirror of overall health’. Older people are more vulnerable to oral conditions or diseases due to the increase in chronic conditions and physical or mental disabilities.

Geriatric Patient
The aged or the elderly can be classified according to 3 age groups:

  • Young-old: are between 65-74 years
  • Middle-old: are between 75-84 years
  • Oldest-old: are those older than 85

The dental classification of the elderly is done depending on the patient’s ability to seek dental care independently and is of 2 types:

  • Frail Elderly: have physical, mental and emotional problems and are unable to maintain independence without assistance from others.
  • Functionally dependent: also have physical, medical and emotional issues and are unable to maintain independence and so are institutionalized.

Oral Health Problems in Aged People
The common oral conditions that affect the life of Geriatric patients are:

  • Darkened Teeth:
    This is usually caused by the changes in the bone-like tissue called dentin that lies under the tooth enamel. These changes might have been caused by the continual consumption of stain-causing foods and beverages. The thinning outer enamel layer can also cause this leading to the dark-yellow dentin to show through.
  • Dry Mouth:
    This is caused by the reduced saliva flow that can result from cancer treatments using radiation to the head and neck regions. Certain diseases like the Sjögren’s Syndrome and the side effects of medications are also known to cause this.
    Diminished Sense Of Taste:
    As patients grow older, their sense of taste is impaired. Other causes for this are diseases, medications and dentures.
  • Root Decay:
    Decay-causing acids can be a reason for the decay of the root. The tooth roots are exposed as the gum recedes from the tooth. As roots don’t have enamel to protect them, they are more vulnerable to decay compared to the crown of the tooth.
  • Gum Disease:
    This is usually caused by plaque, using tobacco products, ill-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets and diseases like anaemia, cancer and diabetes.
  • Tooth Loss: is caused by gum diseases.
  • Uneven Jawbone:
    When missing teeth are not replaced, rest of the teeth drifts and shifts into open spaces.
  • Denture-Induced Stomatitis:
    Poor-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene and the buildup of the fungus Candida Albicans can cause this condition. This can lead to the inflammation of the tissue lying under the denture.
  • Thrush:
    Diseases or drugs usually affect the immune system leading to the overgrowth of the fungus Candida Albicans in the mouth.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Elderly Patients
The elderly patients will have to follow the oral hygiene tips below:

  • Brushing the teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste with fluoride.
  • Flossing once a day.
  • Rinsing with antiseptic mouthwash 1-2 times daily.
  • Visiting the dentist regularly for cleaning and oral exam.


Authored by DR.NIRANJAN P



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