Is Healthy Aging Your Goal? A Healthy Mouth Should Be, Too, GSA Finds

Author:  Todd Kluss
The latest issue in the What’s Hot publication series from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — titled “Oral Health: An Essential Element of Healthy Aging” — provides evidence supporting the crucial links between oral health, systemic conditions, functional abilities, and healthy aging. In addition to calling attention to the growing recognition of the importance of oral health, the publication highlights special oral health challenges now faced by the world’s rapidly aging population.

It provides a valuable and up-to-date resource for clinicians, researchers, educators, and policy-makers across disciplines to quickly bring them up to speed on key areas of concern in geriatric oral health. It also summarizes what is known to help improve geriatric oral health as well as knowledge gaps that warrant further attention in research and policy development.

The current What’s Hot was developed by GSA and supported by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. GSA member Stephen Shuman, DDS, MS, who chairs GSA’s Oral Health: An Essential Element for Healthy Aging Workgroup, served as a faculty reviewer for the publication. “Older adults now have more natural teeth and higher oral health expectations than ever before. We also now know that oral health is not only important for basic comfort and appearance, but also for systemic health, nutrition, and social and psychological well-being,” Shuman said. “For example, poor oral health can lead to increased risk of aspiration pneumonia, diabetes-related problems, restricted food choices, and impaired social interaction. When you add these to the other health and psychosocial issues that can occur with aging, the consequences can be quite serious.” The issue of What’s Hot also states that while tooth loss and poor oral health in general might seem inevitable during the aging process, older adults can maintain their dentition throughout an extended lifespan by means of daily oral hygiene and periodic professional care.