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Geriatric Dentistry: Before You Call 911

Course Number: 586

Geriatric Dentistry

Geriatric dentistry, or Gerodontology, is the delivery of dental care to older adults involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of problems associated with normal aging and age-related diseases as part of an interdisciplinary team with other health care professionals.14 It was originally defined as "that portion of the pre-doctoral dental curriculum that deals with special knowledge, attitudes and technical skills required in the provision of oral health care to older adults.15It’s commonly considered to be a part of ‘Special Care Dentistry’ by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.15 The Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA) formed the American Society of Geriatric Dentistry (ASGD) in 1965 and later the SCDA Council of Geriatric Dentistry in 2013.

Geriatric dentistry is a crucial part of the health maintenance mechanism for the elderly and medically compromised individuals. On average, people above the age of 65 years are expected to report one or more chronic medical conditions that require consideration before initiating any dental treatment.15 The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report stated that older adults suffer from a “silent epidemic of profound and consequential dental problems.16 As per one estimate, a typical dental practice could expect to see about four to five elderly patients on any given day of operation.17

Correspondingly, in a statement released by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), it is projected there will be a need for more than 6,000 dental practitioners with specialized training in geriatric dentistry by the year 2020.18,19