What is Geriatric Dentistry?
Geriatric Dentistry refers to delivering dental care to older adults, and it usually involves diagnosing, preventing, managing, and treating medical issues related to age. Poor oral health among our aging population is rampant, and since they are more susceptible to oral problems, there is an entire group of dental care provisions dedicated to them. This is called Geriatric Dental Care.
In many countries, Geriatric Dentistry falls under the category of ‘special needs dentistry’ or ‘special care dentistry.’ Although this specific type of dentistry may not be categorized as such, the need for it is undeniable, and the reasons are many.
Why Geriatric Dentistry?
As the body ages, it becomes increasingly susceptible to ill-health. Teeth and gums are no exception, and they say that the mouth is the mirror of the body’s general health. That’s why it’s important to recognize the potential risks of using standard dental procedures in someone who is advanced in years.
Issues Caused by Medication
Since the elderly population is more likely to be taking medication for various conditions, this can lead to problems such as dry mouth (Xerostomia). Links have been established between dry mouth and several conditions from Alzheimer’s to diabetes.
Issues Caused by Aging
Natural aging can lead to reduced functioning of the oral mucous membrane. It can also be a causative factor for dental erosion, periodontal diseases, and other problems.
Challenges to Geriatric Dentistry
The biggest hurdles to effective treatment of dental problems in older adults are as follows:
Cognitive Impairment – This can lead to the patient being uncooperative, and unknowingly so.
Functional Impairment – In some cases, the patient may have difficulty with certain mouth or tongue movements, or even find it hard to swallow. This may affect some types of dental procedures.
Physical Limitations – Pain and lack of strength are two contributing factors that limit physical ability to cooperate during a dental procedure.
In all cases, the dentist in question must know how to deal with these issues and still accomplish the goal of the dental procedure. Since most formal dental education streams don’t yet recognize Geriatric Dentistry as a specialty field, it often boils down to experience. If you’re planning to pursue geriatric dentistry in Pondicherry or elsewhere, make sure you carry your medical files with you so your dentist can assess the suitability of dental procedures that you require when traveling.