Thursday, 26 April 2018
Overview of Oral Health in Older Adults!
As populations in the United States and around the globe move toward a world in which 25% of people will be 65 years or older, much attention is being paid to the management of chronic diseases and maintenance of activities of daily living. Cardiovascular disease, cancers, Alzheimer disease, and immunologic disorders are among the systemic conditions attracting the attention of researchers, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and healthcare professionals.
Often overlooked is the contribution of a healthy mouth to a person’s overall well-being and its relationship with the disease processes occurring in the rest of the body. Yet the effects of poor oral health are similar to other uncontrolled disease processes.
Without a healthy mouth, important aspects of general and health-related quality of life are affected, including nutrition, self-image, willingness to interact socially, mental health, and all too often, physical health. The 32 adult teeth (including the third molars, or the “wisdom” teeth) and associated tissues serve a wide variety of functions in daily life. The mouth, tongue, and throat interface with the external environment, filter and process microbes and antigens, and send signals to the brain about ingested foods and other substances.
The oral cavity is critically important in speech, mastication, swallowing, and digestion of foods as well as to one’s appearance.
1 Deficiencies in any of these functions because of disease or injury can affect a person’s self-image and desire to interact with others, which in turn can lead to social isolation and thereby contribute to depression. In this issue of the What’s Hot newsletter, published by The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), oral health is considered as an essential element of healthy ageing. The topic encompasses the breadth of the human condition, including clinical, scientific, psychosocial, and policy considerations. Normal/Pathological Aging In the ageing process, tooth loss, gum disease, and other dental problems have historically been considered inevitable outcomes. But like many aspects of “normal” ageing, edentulism and poor oral health can be prevented.
The outlook for oral health is changing because of shifts toward new ideas in dentistry, including an integrated preventive approach to care and maintenance of the natural teeth and oral tissues whenever possible. Rather than a norm of extracting teeth, followed by tooth replacement, dental professionals today prefer conservative approaches aimed at preserving teeth, including restorations (e.g., fillings, crowns) and preventive care for older patients with dental caries, gum disease, injuries, or problems such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and other orofacial conditions. Removal of teeth and prosthetic replacement are considered only a last resort.
By The Gerontological Society of America
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