Geriatrics: At-risk population for malnutrition, poor oral health

Geriatric health is an underexplored area of dentistry, yet the United Nations predicts by 2050 one in six people will be older than 65. According to the May 2012 issue of Gerodontology Society’s journal, there is an increase in geriatric patients and more senior patients are retaining their teeth than in the past. Dentists must promote the dental health of older adults and advocate for policies that help achieve this goal.

Geriatric dental issues

Elderly patients face many challenges in receiving care. The May 2012 issue of the Gerodontology Society’s journal mentions some challenges including being home-bound or institutionalized, having diminished functional status, managing multiple medical conditions, dealing with financial hardship, and lacking transportation. It also notes how seniors are more susceptible to malnutrition, oral side effects from medications and oral infection. This issue highlights how elderly patients receiving multiple medications are more likely to experience medication-induced xerostomia, which can lead to an increase in caries. An increase in dental infection can impact the mortality of medically complex geriatric patients. When the aging body shows signs of rapid deterioration, the oral cavity is not exempt. Almost all systemic diseases include oral health issues, and often those oral issues may surface before other signs of a disease. When senior patients have access to routine dental care, it means another health care provider is screening for systemic diseases.

Finish reading this article in the February issue of Contour magazine.

~Katherine Malyszek, North Carolina ’22, Chapter Advocacy Co-Chair, ASDA Council on Advocacy Legislative Coordinator – Districts 4-5

Katherine Malyszek

Katherine Malyszek is a third-year dental student at the University of North Carolina Adams School of Dentistry. She is passionate about advocating for the dental profession and her patients. Aside from advocacy, Katherine loves spending time outdoors, exploring new places and trying new recipes.

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