Geriatric dentistry is the study and treatment of oral problems of the elderly. It involves detecting and preventing tooth decay. It also deals with dentures and management of periodontal disease.
Both traditional and geriatric dentists have the same basic background and training. Geriatric dentists, though, have more training in oral issues of the elderly.
Factors Affecting Dental Health of the Elderly
Elderly people are at risk of many oral health problems. These include darkened teeth, tooth loss, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. Other possible dental issues include diminished sense of taste and oral cancers.
Neglect earlier in life can cause these dental problems. Examples are poor hygiene practices, poor diet, and poor habits like drinking and smoking.
There are many other causes of poor oral hygiene in seniors. Lack of family support and financial difficulties are some of them. These can also affect their speech, how they eat, and the quality of their life.
Age is not the main or only factor to determine oral health. Certain medical conditions can cause difficulty to brush or floss the teeth. Another factor that can affect oral health are medications. They can affect the necessary dental treatment.
Why Geriatric Dentistry Is Needed
Globally, there is an increase in the population of people who are 65 years old and above. This is the leading cause of the growth in geriatric dentistry.
Geriatric dentists need time and patience. They should understand that older people may fear going to the dentist. The elderly may have health complications like arthritis, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.
Older people often cannot pay huge amounts of money. This is another thing that geriatric dentists have to understand.
People over 65 should find a dentist who understands the specific problems of older people. There was less information about oral health many years ago. Because of this, tooth loss and gum disease are common in the elderly.
It is ideal for them to find a dentist who specializes in periodontal disease. If not, the dentist must have someone working in their office with specialty in this field.
Many older people wear dentures. For this reason, their dentist should be someone that makes and cares for these prosthetic devices.
A lot of elderly people are also suffering from adult-onset diabetes. They are vulnerable to having oral infection after surgery. This is why it is advisable for them to consult with a dentist with expertise in treating the elderly. Geriatric dentists have experience in taking care of diabetic patients.
As a final point, if you cannot find the right dentist, you can ask someone in the older age group. They may know a geriatric dentist that they can recommend to you.