Oral disease in the geriatric patient: the physician's role

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In the elderly, oral health has a profound impact on general well-being. The ability to quickly identify potentially harmful oral health problems is valuable to the physician, who generally will see an older patient more often than the dentist will.


Many medications and conditions can contribute to xerostomia and, therefore, to the development of dental caries and destruction of the teeth.

Periodontal disease can also lead to increased susceptibility to caries and loss of teeth but is preventable through regular dental care.

Bacteremia originating in oral foci can cause serious conditions such as endocarditis, infections of prosthetic joints, and contamination of vascular-access devices, especially in immunocompromised patients. To reduce their risk of bacteremia, neutropenic patients should receive broad-spectrum antibiotics before undergoing dental procedures.

Oral cancer is easily treated if detected early.

Patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy have special problems, as chemotherapeutic agents are highly toxic to the oral mucosa.



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