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Geriatric dentistry, also referred to as gerodontics, is a branch of dentistry concerned with the management of dental problems associated with the aging process and the diseases associated with it. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to dental problems such as root caries, periodontal disease (gum disease), missing teeth, attrition, uncomfortable dentures, oral ulcers, reduced salivary flow (xerostomia), alveolar bone resorption, oral cancers and tooth decay. These problems may result from intake of cariogenic (cavity causing) food, lack of knowledge about preventive measures, smoking or use of tobacco in any other form. Certain factors such as co-existing diseases, decreased immunity, and lack of attention to oral health can increase the risk of oral diseases in the elderly.
Older individuals with diabetes mellitus are at an increased risk of developing oral infections and experiencing impaired healing after dental procedures. In addition to this, they may also suffer from xerostomia (dry mouth), which can be a side effect of a few medications such as anti-hypertensives, anti-psychotics, and anxiolytics. The absence of the protective functions of saliva in xerostomia patients predisposes them to oral disease.
Dental care for the elderly patients requires time and patience, as well as the ability to listen to their problems. It is important for the dentist to guide them, during the entire dental process. Maintaining good oral health is essential among the elderly and the best way to achieve this is by following healthy oral habits, diet and lifestyle changes, and regular visits to your dentist.