This article describes the rapidly growing geriatric population in the United States. Current and emerging living arrangements include the subgroups of older adults who live at home, retirement villages, assisted living facilities, various levels of nursing homes, and hospice care. The degree of isolation and social connection is discussed and the need for dental care has been summarized from the literature. Demographic trends imply a substantial increase in both the need and demand for dental care by the senior age groups. A proposal to integrate oral health and dental care with primary care is provided.
Changes in the US population age distribution owing to the baby boom generation will result in a substantial increase in the geriatric population over the next 30 years.
Aging can be defined in chronologic, physical, and social terms, reflecting changes in an individual’s participation within their sociocultural context or physical or functional capabilities.
Older adults are retaining greater numbers of their natural dentition, which will result in a greater unmet need and effective demand for dental care.
Dentists should be more closely linked to primary care or provide primary care in the dental office.
Defining old age
There is no one accepted definition or threshold for old age, and yet there are a multitude of terms describing this life stage and progressions within it. Terms such as old , elderly , and senior , are often used to refer social constructs of chronologic age that mark changes in an individual’s participation within their sociocultural context or physical or functional capabilities ( Box 1 ). Other terms such as successful aging , frail elderly , and oldest old refer to loosely defined phases of the older age life stage with unique considerations.