The dental world is comprised of many specialties to help patients with their dental needs throughout many phases of their lives. The oral health disciplines include specializations in endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, and even pedodontics for our youngest dental patients; however, no specialty exists in geriatric dentistry. The older adult population may have growing oral health needs and may wish to continue their treatment with their general dentist. Without a specialized practice in geriatric dentistry, the general practitioner is charged with helping patients transition through all stages of life, potentially including stages which include medical changes with systemic side effects.
Older adults may experience oral conditions that can have an effect on their quality of life just as they are beginning to enjoy their retirement years. As one ages, the likelihood of developing medical conditions increases. It is well-documented adults over the age of 65 have at least one to two chronic diseases and are on at least 1-2 prescription medications that may have xerostomic effects. It is also at this time they may no longer have dental insurance and thus must make decisions about where to invest their fixed income. Patients, and their caregivers where applicable, need to be educated about disease prevention strategies to avoid the ramifications of oral disease.
Twenty-three percent of adults 65 years and older are edentulous.1 The goal now is to retain one’s dentition throughout a person’s lifespan as patients are becoming more aware of prevention and nonsurgical options. Dental professionals must assist their patients in reaching this goal by creating a lifelong oral health care plan; subsequently, dispelling the age-old notion tooth loss is inevitable as we age.