As the study of medicine advances further and further, people are living longer and healthier lives. Direct evidence of this is none other than a branch of medicine that would have been unthinkable, even 50 or 60 years ago. This branch of dentistry is gerodontics, or the study of the teeth and dental needs and diseases of old people, a subject that was simply non-existent in the past, as teeth did not survive long enough to be around in geriatric age. I would like to give an overview of some of the topics that are dealt with in gerodontics, and some of the main issues that dentists who specialize in this field have noticed.
One of the problems that is very ubiquitous is the issue of attrition. Whether the patient has all of their teeth or all of their teeth are healthy, or they have a mouth full of cavities, in old age you will have to deal with the fact that your teeth have been doing what they do for a bit of time, and damage will have been accumulated by this point. The incisors and canines are the first to exhibit signs of attrition, and are the first to be affected as well. Usually, teeth become sensitive as they grow smaller, thinner and more frail. This is because the enamel is worn off of the teeth from the occlusal forces of chewing and biting over time. There are many ways to deal with attrition. If your teeth are otherwise healthy, you can just use desensitizing toothpaste, and this will make dentine hypersensitivity a thing of the past. A thin layer of composite resin can also be placed over the teeth that are sensitive, this should get rid of the problem.
The term edentulism refers to being toothless. One of the main problems that elderly people have is that some teeth will be missing, but not all. This creates a condition of partial edentulism, which is bad for the gingiva and the alveolus, causing the periodontal ligament to weaken, and for teeth to be more mobile, and to function poorly. Partial dentures are ill fitting because of this; the oral environment changes to its surroundings, and as such the denture may need to be fitted again and again until all of the alveolus disintegrates.
Sadly there is relatively little that can be done about this, aside from prevention. By getting dental implants your mouth will never enter a stage of edentulism, even if you have no more natural teeth, but at this stage in medical science, if your ligament is gone, it’s gone for good.
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