Centenarians have better teeth


02.-100-year-birthdayNot everything stands the test of time, but it seems if you’re older than 100 your teeth most certainly do.

New research presented in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society discovered that centenarians and their children had better oral health than people born in the same year who did not reach their 100th birthday.

The findings showed that less than half (46 per cent) of American adults born in the 1900 group had no teeth left around ages 65 to 74 years in 1971 to 1974. In comparison, more than one in three (37 per cent) of the centenarians of the same age had no teeth left.

In addition, those who did not make it past 100 were less likely to have all or more than half of their natural teeth and less likely to report excellent or very good oral health compared to the centenarian’s children.

The research further highlights the growing belief that there are two stages of the elderly, with both age brackets having some very specific oral health requirements.

To emphasise the need for good oral healthcare among the elderly, the World Health Organisation have recently stated the main health challenges for older people are non-communicable diseases. In addition, the World Health Professions Alliance have also stated oral diseases, including tooth decay, severe gum disease and oral cancer are ‘neglected but important non-communicable diseases with a significant burden on overall health’.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes the research highlights how times are changing.

Dr Carter said: “What I find incredible about the research is how many people over the age of 100 still have their own teeth. More people are living for longer, and this is the clearest indication yet that carers and the health service need to be aware of how to approach oral care to elderly patients.

“Older people have some very specific dental needs with many suffering from decay around the necks of teeth due to changes in saliva flow that occur with age or as a result of prescription drug use. All this occurs at a time when self-care through toothbrushing may become more difficult due to decreasing manual dexterity.

“People who have lost teeth and who wear dentures also need to maintain high standards of oral health, especially to protect any remaining natural teeth. Dentures should be cleaned twice a day like normal teeth and kept moist at all times.

“It is particularly important for older people to brush twice a day for two minutes at a time using a fluoride toothpaste. Use of mouthwashes to help prevent plaque build-up or products specifically developed for dry mouth can also help them maintain optimum oral care and prevent problems.”

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  1. Good article. One minor correction: Dentures do not need to be kept moist at all times. It is a myth passed on from times when dentures were not made of acrylic resin. In fact they are better to keep dry when out of the mouth, to stop microbial growth.


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