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Geriatric (Elders) Dentistry

Geriatric dentistry or gerodontics is the delivery of dental care to older adults involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of problems associated with normal aging and age-related diseases as part of an interdisciplinary team with other health care professionals

The mouth is referred to as a mirror of overall health, reinforcing that oral health is an integral part of general health. In the elderly population poor oral health has been considered a risk factor for general health problems. On the other hand, older adults are more susceptible to oral conditions or diseases due to an increase in chronic conditions and physical/mental disabilities. Thus, old people form a distinct group in terms of provision of care.

The dental diseases that the elderly are particularly prone to are root caries, attrition, periodontal disease, missing teeth because of earlier neglect, edentulism, poor quality of alveolar ridges, ill-fitting dentures, mucosal lesions, oral ulceration, dry mouth (xerostomia), oral cancers, and rampant caries. Many of these are the sequelae of neglect in the early years of life, for example, consumption of a cariogenic diet, lack of awareness regarding preventive aspects, and habits like smoking and/or tobacco, pan, and betel nut chewing. All these problems may increase in magnitude because of the declining immunity in old age and because of coexisting medical problems. As a result of poor systemic health, the elderly patient often does not pay sufficient attention to oral health. In addition, medications like antihypertensives, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, etc., lead to xerostomia, and the absence of the protective influences of saliva in the oral cavity increases the predisposition to oral disease. Financial constraints and lack of family support or of transportation facilities affect access to dental services in later life. The untreated oral cavity has its deleterious effects on comfort, aesthetics, speech, mastication and, consequently, on quality of life in old age.