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Geriatric Dentistry

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Today let’s talk about geriatric dentistry.

Not too long ago the general public would joke that you had three sets of teeth. Your “baby” teeth that naturally fell out, then a second set of teeth and lastly a set of dentures!!!

At the end of the nineteenth century the average life span was 49 years. At the end of the twentieth century it was 76. People are obviously living longer and the need for geriatric dental care is increasing.

So what happens as the dentition ages?

Attrition (wear and tear) is very common. Of course, the more teeth the individual has retained the more evenly the workload can be distributed. The lower front teeth usually show wear on the top edges. These are areas where the enamel has worn away and we are now down to the next layer: the dentin. The dentin is softer, more porous and easily stained. This situation can be restored (usually in just one visit) by restoring the worn areas with a tooth colored, bonded restoration.

As aging occurs the areas of the jaw that do not contain teeth shrinks in every direction. The jaw gets narrower and shorter. This makes it increasingly difficult to wear a full denture. A fantastic restoration is an implant retained overdenture. Implants are placed and the denture SNAPS onto them!!! This arrangement allows the patient to function normally. They can eat hard or sticky food and the denture remains in place.

Other conditions are xerostomia (dry mouth) due to medications, root cavities, missing teeth because of earlier neglect, oral cancers, and periodontal disease. All these problems may increase in magnitude because of the declining immunity in old age and because of coexisting medical problems.

With the prospects of living into your 70’s, 80’s and beyond on the horizon the importance of preventive care cannot be more emphasized. A vast majority of the previously mentioned conditions can be prevented with regular maintenance visits.

Thomas G. Botis, DMD, FAGD 5/10/2014

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