OLDER ADULT'S SPECIAL NEEDS
Senior citizens, the fastest growing portion of the U.S. population, are
keeping their teeth longer than prior generations and have special dental needs
As the population ages, the dental needs of the individual over 65 become
increasingly specialized; each individual has different medical problems and
take different prescriptions which can adversely interact with dental
anesthesia. Dental patients, especially the elderly, need to keep their dentist
informed of any changes or updates in their medical history to help prevent
potentially harmful drug interactions or health conditions.
"Many medications cause a decrease in the saliva flow which suppresses
the normal buffering action of the saliva," said Fred Margolis, DDS, one of
50 featured clinicians at the Academy of General Dentistry's annual meeting,
president of the Illinois Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped (IFDH),
and staff dentist at a residential facility for the developmentally disabled.
"The resulting dry mouth condition can lead to dental decay and dry mouth,
which can lead to tooth loss."
"Special mouthrinses can be prescribed to increase the saliva flow and
reduce plaque build-up," said Dr. Margolis.
Adult tooth loss is often a result of oral disease and not the aging process.
Regular dental visits are essential for senior citizens, even for the 44
percent of elderly adults who no longer have their teeth. Dentists can adjust
uncomfortable dentures and screen for oral cancer: each year, more than 8,000
people die of oral and throat cancer according to the Center for Disease Control
In order to avoid oral diseases and maintain their natural teeth, seniors who
do not have a regular dentist should select a dentist and schedule a
consultation visit, advised Dr. Margolis. "Talk to the dentist, make sure
you feel comfortable. Explain your condition, concerns and bring your medication
list." Homebound seniors can contact local dental societies regarding
mobile dentistry programs.
Seniors planning to enter a nursing home should inquire about the dental
consultant and their personal care giver. Currently, 1.5 million seniors receive
care in 16,700 nursing homes and 50 to 77 percent of those nursing home
residents experience total tooth loss.
Family members should play an active role in encouraging the oral health of
homebound seniors or those in nursing homes by helping them schedule regular
Plaque Can Cause Aspiration Pneumonia
In research on a group of 95 elderly persons
from nursing homes who were hospitalized for severe aspiration
pneumonia, investigators concluded that the bacteriology
associated with their disease could have sprung from
micro-organisms that had been colonized in either their dental
plaque or oropharyngeal cavity at the time of aspiration.
Many older institutionalized patients have deterioration in
their activities of daily living, It is quite plausible that
poor oral health, because of the difficulty of accessing
professional dental care and insufficient or poor oral hygiene,
leads to an environment that promotes colonization of dental
plaques by anaerobic and Gram-negative organisms.
June 2003 of the American Thoracic
Society's peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and
Critical Care Medicine, Ali El-Solh, M.D., M.P.H., of the
Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine,
University of Buffalo School of Medicine, Buffalo, New York
Older Adult Index