Saturday, January 14, 2006

caries, senile (cavities of teeth)

One of the chief disorders affecting the teeth of the older person is known as senile caries. This is decalcification or decay of the tooth at the cervical area-the junction of the crown of the tooth and the gingival epithelium (the gum area). As the soft tissue and bone recedes, the cementum of the root surface is exposed and these areas may decay. The chief etiologic factors in cervical caries in the aged are changes in the quality and quantity of saliva production. This is complicated by the soft, easy to chew diet, high in refined carbohydrates, to which many elderly people must resort. Also, older individuals frequently lack the manual dexterity necessary for good oral hygiene due to arthritic changes, the effects of a stroke, or other physical disabilities.
Symptoms of dental caries include a visible defect in the tooth, with air or cold sensitivity and pain.
Proper brushing and flossing remain basic to preventive dentistry. A battery-operated tooth brush or Water Pik may be useful to the person with physical limitations. Artificial saliva and fluoride gel are available over the counter and help alleviate the symptoms of senile caries. Treatment for dental caries involves removal of the decayed portion and replacing it with a simple filling, inlay, or crown.
When decay has reached the pulp of a tooth, it may be necessary to extract the tooth or have root canal therapy. It is, therefore, crucial that the elderly patient attend to his or her dental health thoroughly and routinely.
Steinberg, F. U. Care of the Geriatric Patient. 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.

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