Geriatric Dentistry: Aging Gracefully and Healthily

Geriatric Dentistry – Being Old is NOT a Disease!

In my practice I have had patients in their 90’s with all of their teeth, and I have a 20 year old who currently began his first of 3 root canals. Although these are extremes, we see everything in between- Diabetics, HIV patients, pregnant women.

The in between is by far the most interesting. Recently I had a patient in his 50’s come in with a tooth that needed to come out and needed an implant. He opted for a bridge because he said, “if I was younger, I would get the implant. Who knows how much longer I have to live.” Aside from the tooth, he was a healthy guy. The sad reality- implants are primarily made for an older generation. Young people shouldn’t be losing teeth.  In fact, no one should be losing teeth. We are our own worst enemy. People are getting fatter, portions are getting bigger. We don’t floss. Energy drinks are melting your teeth away… Yes, melting!

Everyone tells me they brush. I have never had anyone tell me they don’t brush, but most of my patients wince when I ask them how often they floss. If you are drinking a Monster, Red Bull, etc., you are literally melting your teeth with acid. You know how crazy that is? Your teeth can survive a fire. In fact, a lot of people who were victims to 9-11 were identified by their dental records. We are what we eat; and someone who sips on a big gulp from a 7-11, or even a diet Red Bull throughout the day, will erode their teeth via the acid content.

The fact remains; you will live a healthier life if you floss. Your heart will be stronger. Your gums and surrounding bone will be stronger. There are countless studies to show you will live longer if you floss on a daily basis. As the population ages, I have seen many patients opting for dentures. After all, their parents had them, so why not? This should not be the mindset in this day and age. We as a progressive nation, in times of the internet should be looking into dental implants. If you broke a hip, you would be looking to get a hip replacement wouldn’t you? Or would you want to be on crutches for the rest of your life? Well, we can give you your teeth back. Sort of like the Bionic Man and Terminator rolled into one glorious dental implant.

Look, no one jumps for joy when they have to wear a denture. I will make for you the best looking denture in the world, but dentures are not sexy. The reality is, when I have to make an upper plate/denture for a patient, although they can function with it, I am covering up all those taste buds on the palate.  The more that taste are buds covered, the less a person can taste, and the more prone for someone to add unnecessary salt for flavor to their diet.  The more salt intake, the greater the incidence for high blood pressure and kidney disease. Kidney disease = renal failure and possible dialysis. Am I being extreme? Not really. I see it every day in my office.

So I want you to floss. I want you to keep your teeth. I want you to stop drinking that high in acid energy drink. If you smoke, STOP.  Heck, I would even like you to get on a treadmill for 20 minutes. I want you to be my next 90 year old patient with all his teeth and some fillings here and there.  And most important, look both ways when you cross the street, and you can DEFINITELY live to be 90.