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GERIATRIC DENTISTRY

March 28th, 2013

As our population ages and the large group of “Baby boomers” reaches the senior years, the medical community must adapt to the needs of the patients.  The dental community is no different.  Although not yet a recognized specialty, many offices in retirement areas have limited their practices to treating the unique problems of older patients.  But most general practices have been handling the needs of their older patients quite adeptly for many years.
The old notion that losing all or most of your teeth as a normal part of aging has been pretty much rebuffed.  In the past, almost 80% of those over 65 had no teeth.  Today, that figure is under 20%.  We are able to help our patients stay functional and esthetic for their whole lives, no matter how long.
The cornerstone of geriatric care is the same as for all dentistry; Prevention.  Our seniors tend to have some time on their hands and may spend more of their hours eating and snacking.  Combined with many medications that can lead to reduced saliva, this can lead to increased rates of decay.  Proper oral hygiene instruction, dietary counseling, and additional fluoride application can help.
We can even use some different filling materials in these circumstances.  Called glass ionomers or compomers, these materials can actually release fluoride and help prevent decay.  Other restorative options can be discussed on a case by case basis for the best results for each individual patient.  As always, keep your dental team advised of your medical and dental circumstances and needs.
Remember that proper diet is critical to health at any age.  It is far easier to maintain a proper diet with a natural dentition.  Your own teeth should last a lifetime, regardless of your age.

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