2006 Volume 43 Issue 3 Pages 293-296
As demographic aging continues even today, geriatric dentistry responsive to the times must be established. The greatest concern of elderly individuals is health, and as dentists, we care for the oral cavity as the gateway to the digestive organs. Stated briefly then, I believe that our primary role as dental health care providers in an elderly society is to maintain and promote health by preventing a decline in eating function.
Dentistry up to the present has pursued responses to disease. But in an elderly society, a decline in oral function accompanying aging is a problem. In other words, consistent with changes in the population structure, dentistry in the future should not end with the treatment of tooth decay, periodontal disease, or other such dental diseases; rather, it must pursue a shift to prevention of age-attendant decline in oral function and maintenance of healthy food intake and swallowing functions.
Nonetheless, dentistry is gradually declining in hospitals that admit elderly individuals. While urban dental clinics are regarded as too numerous, dentistry in hospitals is disappearing, and the thought of health care settings without dentistry is sobering. I believe we must eliminate a troubling situation in which our connection to dentistry is severed at a time when we most need dentistry. This should be the first step in establishing dentistry for maintenance of eating functions.