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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1995 Dec;43(12):1414-22.

The importance of oral health in the older patient.

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Dental Service, Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, MI 48105, USA.


Oral health is important to general health because stomatologic disease affects more than the mouth. Increasing preservation of teeth among present and future cohorts of older people has increased their risk for serious disease from oral pathogens. The intent of this paper is twofold: first, to alert non-dental health personnel to the significance of oral health and oral disease in the older adult; and second, to recruit the assistance of non-dental professionals in helping patients to achieve and maintain an optimal oral condition. Normative aging processes alone have little effect on the oral cavity, but common disease processes affecting oral health include tooth loss, dental caries, periodontal diseases, and oral mucosal diseases (including candidiasis and squamous cell carcinoma). Systemic diseases and their treatments frequently affect salivary, oral motor, and oral sensory functions. As a result of bacteremia or aspiration of oral contents, organisms of oral origin can be responsible for serious nonstomatological infections. Clinicians caring for older people need to recognize the importance of stomatological health, include an oral component in the multidisciplinary geriatric assessment, support the education of patients on aspects of dental health, and advocate the expansion of personal and public oral health benefits for older adults.

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