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.
Recently, the Buffalo chapter of ASDA hosted a session of “Fun and Games with UB Dental” at our local nursing home, Elderwood. We chose to volunteer with this population because we often see that geriatric individuals are underserved when it comes to oral hygiene knowledge as well as access to oral hygiene supplies.
“I think I’m just going to tie my tooth to a string and slam the door,” said one of my first patients, a kind and hilarious 83-year-old woman. We got an oral surgery consultation that cleared her extraction after considering her multiple comorbidities, and it was then I realized the unique challenges geriatric patients face in obtaining dental care.
It is estimated that by 2030, 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be 65 years or older. About five percent of the aging population is edentulous, and this number is expected to dwindle as more older adults are retaining their natural teeth. This group may be placed into one of three broad categories: (1) functionally independent older adults; (2) frail older adults; (3) functionally dependent older adults, according to an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association.