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Dental care for the elderly

Date :14/05/2015

It is estimated that by 2030, more than 20 per cent of India’s population will be 60 years of age or older. The average life span of man has constantly been on the increase and is now placed at 65 years, yet older people use fewer dental services than younger adults.

Studies suggest that 70 percent of elderly persons require some dental treatment; but only 25 per cent perceive this need and only 20 per cent actually seek treatment.

Poor health status seems to play a role, as do financial dependence on their children and the fact that they simply refrain to be a burden to anybody.Well, it’s payback time folks! Time to reflect back on the benevolence showered on us and return the favour. It’s the responsibility of the family to coax the elderly to see the dentist, as he is more than willing to meet their needs with patience and affection.Check out the dental findings and specific oral hygiene instructions for the elderly in the discussion below.

Common dental findings

1. Root decay: Majority of dental caries in the older population are root surface decay, which progresses slowly and is generally painless. Regular dental check-ups are essential and if root decay is detected, then the patient should follow a meticulous oral hygiene with daily use of a fluoride toothpaste and fluoride mouth rinse.

2. Dry mouth / Burning mouth: Ninety per cent of the medications prescribed can produce dryness of the mouth. This can be treated by frequent intake of water, reduced consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and spicy food. Consult a dentist if fungal infection is suspected.

3. Wearing away of teeth: This is the most common finding in the elderly along with shrinking of the gums exposing the roots leading to sensitivity and decay. A comprehensive treatment including teeth cleaning, appropriate fillings and desensitizing tooth paste of sensitivity is advised.

4. Edentulousness (Toothlessness): The National Centre for Health Statistics has reported a decrease in edentulousness although 95 per cent of individuals with teeth older than 65 years have severe gum disease and tooth mobility. If only a few teeth are remaining or most of them are loose, complete extraction followed by a good set of dentures is best.

Oral hygiene aids

Considering the special needs of the geriatric patient, the following is included in oral hygiene instructions:

1.The patient establish a daily routine

2.Toothbrushes can be bent under hot water

3.Handles can customized with acrylic coating, a bicycle grip, or a rubber ball to enhance the grip for patients with arthritis and other disorders

4. The patient can use electrical brushes or interproximal brushes, as needed.

The mouth must be viewed as a reflection of the systemic condition and its care should not be neglected.

The author is dental surgeon and can be contacted at ALL SMILES DENTAL CLINIC, 26673439, 9845085230.


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