Poor oral health, a potential new geriatric syndrome

G.J. van der Putten*, C. de Baat, L. de Visschere, J. Schols

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article presents a brief introduction to the medical aspects of ageing and age-related diseases, and to some geriatric syndromes, followed by a discussion on their impact on general and oral healthcare provision to community-dwelling older people. Recent investigations suggest that inflammation constitutes a biological foundation of ageing and the onset of age-related diseases. Multimorbidity and polypharmacy, together with alterations in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, make older people at risk of adverse medication reactions. A side effect of several medications is causing xerostomia and hyposalivation, and both the type and number of medications used are relevant. New options of general healthcare provision to community-dwelling older people are the use of mobility aids and assistive technology devices, domiciliary health care, respite care and telecare. Their oral health status may be jeopardised by frailty, disability, care dependency and limited access to professional oral health care. Recommendations for improvement are the following: better integrating oral health care into general health care, developing and implementing an oral healthcare guideline, providing customised oral hygiene care aids, domiciliary oral healthcare provision, visiting dental hygienists and/or nurses, oral hygiene telecare, easily and safely accessible dental offices, transforming dentistry into medical oral health care and upgrading dentists to oral physicians. In case oral healthcare providers do not take the responsibility of persuading society of the importance of adequate oral health, weakened oral health of community-dwelling older people will become a potential new geriatric syndrome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
Issue numbers1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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