What most people probably are not aware of is that one of the signs of aging can be seen on the teeth. With aging, the gums recede, the white enamel of the teeth wears away, and the nerves become less sensitive. Studies show that on average, people living in industrialized countries will have lost a third of their teeth by the time reach their 60s. Meanwhile, 40 percent of those age 85 and above may have no teeth at all.
Proper oral health care can help prevent tooth loss, but age-related problems such as arthritis, slight tremors, and general muscle weakness may make it difficult to brush and floss. And given the growing population of seniors, thanks to advances in medicine, there is also a rise in the demand for geriatric dentistry practitioners.
Also known as geriodontics, geriatric dentistry is the dental care of older adults. This involves the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of age-related oral health problems such as periodontal disease, missing teeth, root caries, ill-fitting dentures or false teeth, dry mouth, uneven bite or jaw, oral cancers, etc.
Geriatric dentistry can be quite tricky, as the dentist must exercise patience and compassion when dealing with the elderly. He or she also has factor in medical conditions affecting the patient, such as dementia, Parkinsonâs disease, Alzheimerâs, depression, diabetes, and arthritis or muscle fatigue, among others.
When going for a dental exam, seniors can expect the following:
1. The dentist will ask you about your medical and dental history, including:
– Your last dental visit
– The reason for the visit
– If you have noticed any changes in your teeth and mouth
– If you have any problems biting, chewing, swallowing, and tasting food
– If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort orally
– If you have noticed anything unusual (such as bumps, lumps, swelling, or sores) in your mouth
– If you are taking any medications
2. Aside from your teeth, the dentist will make a thorough examination of:
– The face and neck for any skin discoloration, moles, or sores
– Your bite, to see the alignment of your teeth when opening and closing your mouth
– The jaw
– The lymph nodes and salivary glands to check for swelling or lumps
– The insides of the mouth, such as the tongue, palate, gum tissue, and inner cheeks for infections, spots, ulcers, and other injuries
– Your dentures, if you are wearing any, to see if they are properly fitted, if they are causing any problems, and if they need to be replaced or repaired
When looking for the right dentist for the elderly, it is best to go with one who has experience with geriatric patients, and makes and cares for dentures. And some dentists offer reduced fees or have a payment plan for seniors with financial constraints.