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What is geriatric dentistry?

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Geriatric dentistry definition

Geriatric dentistry 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.

How age can affect oral health?

Your mouth changes as you age.

The nerves in your teeth can become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities or other problems. If you don't get regular dental exams, this, in turn, can lead to these problems not being diagnosed until it is too late.

Clinically, the histological changes may be accompanied by dry thin smooth oral mucosal surfaces, with a loss of elasticity and a characteristic stippling and periodontitis; patients may show increased sensitivity to drugs used in dentistry, including local anesthetics and analgesics.

Common oral health issues among seniors

Below we outline the most common oral health issues that seniors may face:

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is common as you age.

Causes include some medicines, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and nerve damage.

Salivary gland diseases, Sjogren's syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can also cause dry mouth.

Treatment depends on the cause.

Gum problems

Many older adults have gum, or periodontal disease, caused by the bacteria in plaque, which irritate the gums, making them swollen, red, and more likely to bleed.

One reason gum disease is so widespread among adults is that it's often a painless condition until the advanced stage.


One common cause of cavities in older adults is dry mouth, in addition to the nerves in your teeth become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities which make it hard to detect in early stages.

Oral cancer

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumor develops in a part of the mouth.

It may be on the surface of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), the lips or gums.

Incidence rates for oral cancer are highest among older men.

Epidemiologic data identify alcohol and tobacco as major risk factors associated with the disease.


Osteoporosis is a major clinical problem in older women and men. Almost any bone can fracture as a result of the increased bone fragility of osteoporosis. These fractures are associated with higher health care costs, physical disability, impaired quality of life, and increased mortality.

What is Edentulism?

Edentulism is the state of being edentulous, or without natural teeth.

Complete edentulism is an oral cavity without any teeth.


  • Consequences of edentulism

Edentulism leads to bone loss, which affects the mandible four times more than the maxilla.

Tooth loss can have a significant effect on residual ridge resorption that leads to a reduction in the size of the denture bearing area and the height of the alveolar bone.

  • Why replace a missing tooth/teeth?

It is important to replace missing teeth because when a tooth is missing there is no contact with the opposing arch.

This can cause opposing teeth to gradually extrude which leads to other problem, such as fractures, mobility, tooth loss, shifting in surrounding teeth, and gum problems

Replacing missing tooth will improve your overall oral health, and keep your jawbone strong and help protect against tooth decay and gum disease in the surrounding area.


Dentures are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restore your smile. If you've lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay or injury, replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health.


  • Care of dentures in the elderly

It is so important to take care of your denture, here we sum up few important tips:

  • Stand over a folded towel while taking the dentures out. This way if you drop them, they will not break.
  • Store dentures in lukewarm water or denture-cleaning liquid overnight. Do not put them in hot water, and do not let them dry out.
  • Replace dentures about every 5 years. Using dentures daily "wears them out," and you will need to replace them.
  • Clean dentures every day. Cleaning helps prevent stains and helps the mouth stay healthy.
    • Rinse the dentures to remove any loose food.
    • Wet the brush, and brush the dentures with a denture cleanser such as Polident or Efferdent. Do not brush with toothpaste. It can scratch the dentures.
    • Brush every surface gently to avoid damage. Use a brush designed for cleaning dentures or a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Remember to take out the dentures at night. This lowers the risk of choking if the dentures become loose.
common denture concerns
  • Common denture concerns

1. Soreness and discomfort

Soreness and discomfort are normal in the early stages, especially in the first few hours (or even days) after getting your new dentures.

This is often caused by your new dentures rubbing into your gums, causing pain and irritation that can bother you

2. Difficulty speaking

New dentures often feel strange in the mouth at first, making it difficult for most people to speak normally as they’re getting used to them.

3. Difficulty eating

Many patients find it difficult to eat normally soon after getting new dentures because their mouths are still not used to it or because their gums are still healing after their procedures.

4. Slipping dentures

No matter how well-designed your new dentures are, your mouth and gums will need some time to conform to them.

That’s why they often slip or dislodge easily while eating or talking in the first few weeks.

5. Excess saliva

New dentures can sometimes confuse your body, making it think that your dentures are food or a foreign object. This can make your saliva glands work harder, producing more saliva than usual.

Dental care for seniors

Dental care for seniors is resemble for younger adults.

But older adults do have concerns that younger adults do not, below we look over them:

  • Gum treatment for seniors

Many seniors have gum, or periodontal disease, caused by the bacteria in plaque, which irritate the gums, making them swollen, red and more likely to bleed.

In such cases we advise proper cleaning of the gums with close follow-up on oral hygiene.

  • Tooth decay treatment in the elderly

Once dental decay is evident, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.

No matter your age, your teeth are vital to your health. Keeping your mouth healthy affects, the health of your entire body.

ILAJAK Medical offers all required facilities to give elderly patients the best dental care possible.

  • Dental implants in the elderly

Luckily, dental implants are just as effective and long-lasting in older age.

Dental implants often change older people's lives for the better, giving them improved physical health and more confidence.

How to protect your teeth and gum?

Prevention is always better than needing a cure in this segment below we disclose important tips for a better oral hygiene:

  • Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush

Gently brush your teeth on all sides and along the gum line with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste.

Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

Use an electric or battery-operated toothbrush.

  • Floss at least once a day

Clean between your teeth with dental floss, pre-threaded flossers, a water flosser, or a similar product.

This removes plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can't reach.

Rinse after you floss.

  • Avoid sweets and sugar-sweetened foods

Sugar might taste good to you, but processed sugars aren't good for you.

Eating a lot of refined, added sugars can lead to headaches, low energy levels, dental problems and inflammation.

Cutting sugar out of your diet will likely decrease inflammation, boost your energy levels, and improve your oral hygiene.

  • Do not smoke

Smoking increases your risk for gum disease, and oral cancers.

  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups

Regular dental visits are important because they allow your dentist to:

Detect cavities (tooth decay) early.

Your dentist examines your teeth to find cavities while they're still minor. The earlier you catch them; the less expensive cavities are to treat.

When should you contact your dentist?

It is important to see your dentist if pain is consistent and does not go away in a day or two.

Dull pain that is persistent can often be a sign of something that will get worse if not treated. If you notice that a tooth is chipped, cracked, or broken, you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

geriatric dentistry

ILAJAK Medical© | A passion for care


Source: uofm health + NIH

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