A significant portion of our population believes that gum recession is not a serious dental problem as long as their teeth are stable and they do not have sensitivity to ice cream or sweets. This thinking could hardly be farther from the truth. Other than adversely affecting one’s appearance, gum recession can also have a negative effect on a patient’s overall health. Geriatric tooth decay must be avoided, and a good way to do that is to stop gum recession as early as possible.
Gum recession continues as people age and then they are very likely to develop geriatric tooth decay. This type of decay occurs in older people and it is often different than the kind of decay that affects people at a younger age. In fact, the types of bacteria that cause this decay in the elderly are completely different and are often associated with various conditions that are created due to the medications that the elderly take on a regular basis.
Elderly people can get very bad decay on the roots of their teeth. Dentistry as a discipline is not at its best in terms of treating decaying roots—the exposed roots of teeth. The treatment required is not the same as taking care of decay at the top of the tooth, and techniques for root treatment have not been perfected.
For some patients, the lack of definitive treatment for root decay means that they continue to have recurrent decay followed by re-treatment–and the cycle repeats itself. Many of these people eventually lose teeth. If the gum recession had not occurred, or if it had been controlled very soon after it started, many of these geriatric patients would not have these problems later in life. Preventing tooth loss in the elderly is a worthwhile goal, and is very achievable with early diagnosis and gum recession treatment.
Dr. Karl A. Rose
Chevy Chase, MD