The mouth is often referred to as a mirror of one’s health, and it is substantiated that, oral health is an integral part of general health. The large increase in human life expectancy over the years has resulted in a very considerable increase in the number of older persons. Indian demographic profile depicts that in the year’s 2000 to 2050 age group of 80 and above will grow fastest i.e 700 %.
Oral health care in elderly is often neglected and is dependent on many factors such as systemic health,socioeconomic status and availability of dental health care. According to many researchers, especially in elderly population, poor oral health has been considered a risk factor for general health problems and vice versa. Oral diseases have a negative effect on quality of life. Impaired oral health and loss of teeth directly affects the Diet, nutrition, sleep, psychological status, social interaction and restricts major oral functions.
These findings gives special emphasis to the field of geriatric dentistry or GERODONTOLOGY, which is a specialized multidisciplinary branch of general dentistry designed to provide dental services for elderly patients.
Effect of aging on oral tissues:
- Loss of teeth: People have a misconception that loss of teeth is bound to happen with increasing age. loss of teeth occurs primarily due to pyorrhea (Periodontitis) which can be treated if diagnosed at early stage. loss of teeth leads to decrease in chewing efficiency which ultimately leads to swallowing of larger food particles and avoidance of fibrous food which can result in digestive disturbances and nutritional deficiency perticularly in elderly.
- Root surface decay: Due to loss of supporting bone and gums, root portion of teeth becomes exposed in oral cavity and becomes prone to decay if oral hygiene is not maintained religiously. Root caries commonly leads to teeth fracture.
- Wear and tear of teeth: Structural wear and tear of teeth occurs due to several habits such as bettle nut chewing. acidic food intake and night grinding. Wear of teeth can lead to sensitivity of teeth and teeth becomes more prone to decay and fracture.
- Pain at jaw joint: Pain and dysfunction of jaw joint and adjoining muscles in elderly may be aggravated due to over-closure of jaw which may be due to loss or wear of primary supporting teeth.
- Esthetic Changes: Loss of teeth and supporting bone causes reduction of support for skin and facial muscles and facial height is also reduced. This eventually leads to prominence of facial wrinkles such as hollowness of cheek, prominence of chin and drooping of lips.