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Frequently Asked Questions

Senior Dental Care

Written By Dr. Kyle Griffith

I had just recently received a phone call from my mother informing me that my great uncle had been moved to a nursing home. From my discussion with my mother it seemed that everyone thought that this would be beneficial for him since his health had recently deteriorated.

A couple of months later, I called my grandfather to see how he was. The conversation covered the usual topics like, how was the weather, what was growing in the garden, and of course would Michigan State University and Ohio State University beat the University of Michigan in football this year. The conversation then took a detour towards my expertise, dentistry.

I asked how my grandfather's brother was doing. There is a tone that my grandfather takes when he has something important or pressing to say. He absolutely used this tone. "Kyle, my brother's teeth are turning black! His teeth look horrible! I don't know what's going on.

I asked the following questions:
1) Is the "blackness" everywhere?
The answer was, "I see it in a lot of different places."
2) Is your brother on multiple medications?
The answer was, "Absolutely."
3) Do you think the nursing home is brushing his teeth?
The answer was, "Probably not."

It is appropriate to issue certain caveats to my diagnosis. All I was given was my grandfather's insight into the problem. I never performed an evaluation on his brother, as, at the time, my family and I lived halfway around the world. What I am about to say is a guess, and although very likely, may not have been the case.

I told my grandfather that his brother was most likely suffering from rampant caries or "decay." I came to this conclusion based on the likelihood of the following: xerostomia caused by multiple medications, high probability of root exposure, my great uncle's inability to perform oral hygiene, and a diet most likely high in carbohydrates. These factors individually can cause decay; when in combination, they easily can result in rampant decay.

In the final phases of life, oral hygiene and care for a patient's oral health can sometimes take a back seat to other pressing medical issues. It is also not uncommon for medical providers, not versed in dentistry, to not fully comprehend the ramifications of poor oral hygiene.

Poor oral hygiene can lead to rampant caries, localized oral infections, respiratory infections, or spreading infections. Medically compromised patients, in the final phases of life, have a difficult time dealing with these additional stresses to their health, which can ultimately result in death.

If you have a loved one who is hospitalized or unable to perform oral hygiene measures themselves, please talk with their immediate healthcare providers about solutions. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the team at 58 Dental. We are here to promote health throughout all phases of life.

58 Dental
Kyle Griffith DMD
7090 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, CO. 80224