Dentistry for the Geriatric Population - The Elderly and the Aged

What is Geriatric Dentistry?

The elderly and the aged now make up a large percentage of the population. As our life expectancy increases, so do problems related to old age. Geriatric medicine, which is the field of medicine dedicated to care for the elderly, is now a well known and burgeoning area of practice and research. Geriatric dentistry, on the other hand, seems to be slow to the party. Perhaps people traditionally pay less attention to oral health and teeth. Thankfully, this is slowly changing.

Most of you reading this blog will have parents approaching that age whereby medical conditions start to take their toll. Dental problems also become prevalent as they age. This post details some of the common issues I see when treating the elderly. Take care of your parents and bring them to the dentist regularly!

Poor maintenance of oral hygiene

When we get older, our movements become restricted and we are less mobile. You may find that your parents move slower, start to have trembling movements, and generally have less strength. As their grip starts to weaken, holding and manipulating a toothbrush becomes difficult. This is usually the first stage of dental breakdown.

Tips:

If you find that your parents cannot hold their toothbrush properly, try wrapping a small around the handle of the toothbrush. This increases the size of the toothbrush handle and makes it far easier to grasp and manipulate.

Dry mouth causing decayed teeth

Elderly patients are usually on multiple medications. Some common ones are medications for high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, antidepressants and certain antibiotics.

These medications are however known to cause dry mouth as they reduce the production of saliva.

Saliva is very important because it helps to protect our teeth from decay. A reduction of saliva will cause our teeth to be more prone to decay.

Tips:

  • Frequent sips of water – the easiest (and healthiest way!) to combat mild mouth dryness
  • Chew sugarless gum – chewing gum helps to stimulate the glands to produce more saliva
  • Moisturising the air – adding a humidifier to your room at night helps keep your mouth less dry
  • Salivary substitutes – in more severe cases, there are products on the market which act like artificial saliva

As always, make an appointment with your dentist if you feel that you need professional help.

Cheers,

The Dentist


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