Oral health of the elderly: reality, myth, and perspective
As life expectancy increases, and with in both the relative and absolute mumbers of individuals age 60 and older, oro-dental health services face new challenges. This article explores the status of geriatric dental care in Latin America through a bibliographic review of epidemiologic studies included in the MEDLINE and LILACS systems, as well as PAHO studies on this subject. The areas addressed are the elderly's oro-dental health status, perceptions of their own oro-dental health, and frequency of dental service use. The review gives special attention to the critical state of oro-dental health among Latin America's elderly population, which exhibits high prevalences of caries-related tooth loss and total of dentition. The review revealed a scarcity of date relating to periodontal health and the health status of buccal soft tissues in the elderly population. It also found that elderly survey subjects tended to perceive their own oro-dental health in a manner inconsistent with clinical observations. According to several survey-based studies, most of those surveyed felt their oro-dental health was good or very good with few or no chewing problems. Regarding service utilization, many of those interviewed indicate they had not seen a dentist during the 6 months preceding the study. In view of the health, social, and psychologic consequences of the current situation for the elderly and the oral health services' potential for improving this population's quality of life, it is strongly recommended that appropiate and effective oro-dental health care programs oriented to this age group be developedPublished in Spanish in the BOSP. Vol. 116(5), May 1994
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