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Senior’s Health: A Dental Perspective

October 17, 2019 Family dentistry Prevention is better than cure

By the year 2050, over 20% of the world’s population will be over the age of 80.

The senior population can be roughly divided into three different groups:
* Functionally independent older adults – 70%
* Frail older adults – 20%
* Functionally dependent older adults – 10%

These percentages are estimated to change over the next 20 years with an increase in the number of frail and functionally dependent adults.

Many of these patients have, with the help of a dental professional, retained their teeth to an advanced age.

However, there are a number of problem areas facing the aging population in regards to their dental needs.

Dry mouth and saliva:
Saliva has the effect of lubrication, taste, healing, digestion, dilution, buffering of acids and tooth remineralisation.

Medications that reduce anything from blood pressure, pain, hay fever, fluid retention and asthma all have the ability to reduce salivary flow resulting in decay.

Decay Rate:
Previous gum recession exposes more root surfaces to potentially damaging effects of tooth decay. The root surface is softer than tooth enamel, and this combined with a reduction in salivary flow increased the decay rate.

Manual dexterity:
A reduction in effective cleaning due to arthritis and other age-related problems increases the risk of dental decay.

A reduction in vision increases the risk of dental decay due to poor cleaning.

Heavily restored teeth:
Teeth that have been heavily restored with a number of fillings are prone to fracture. Fracture of a tooth in the mouth may have dramatic effects, particularly if the tooth in question was a front tooth or a key support for a partial denture.

Mental health:
As the population age, so does the number of people suffering from dementia.

Current data suggests that the prevalence of dementia in the community varies from 1% in the 60-65 year age bracket, increasing to 30% – 50% in the over 85+ group.

These problems are increasingly likely to occur after the age of 60 and the patient may live for another 20 or 30 years in a gentle medical and physical decline.

The key to minimising the effects of decay in patients of any age and state of health is regular dental maintenance.