Braz Dent J (1996) 7(2): 97-102 ISSN 0103-6440
| Introduction | Material and Methods | Results and Discussion | Conclusions | References |
A total of 104 elderly persons between the ages of 60 and 89 were examined at the “Geraldo de Paula Sousa” Health Center, São Paulo, State of São Paulo. The state of their oral health was very poor, insofar as 4.29 (71.5%) of the sextants were shown to be null, while 0.12 and 0.13 sextants showed deep periodontal pockets ³ 6 mm in the ages from 60-70 and more than 70 years of age, respectively. The level of knowledge about periodontal disease and dental plaque was very deficient; only about 52% of the population under study reported having visited a dentist in the last two years. We conclude that greater odontological attention is needed for the elderly age group, as there are no large-scale community service centers in Brazil for this population group.
Key Words: oral health, periodontal status, gerodontology.
The population under study was divided into two age groups to provide a better understanding of the data in relation to periodontal health condition. The first age group comprised 57% of the sample, including the elderly from 60 to 70 years of age, and the second comprised elderly over 71 years of age. Results are presented with respect to the clinical findings and knowledge and attitudes of the elderly towards periodontal disease, dental visits and oral hygiene. It was found that the percent of the null sextants (less than two teeth per exam) ranged from 45.7% to 84.5%. The age group over 71 years showed a slightly greater percent. These percents are close to those observed in Brazil for the 50-59 year age group, ranging from 53.2% to 76.9% (Ministério da Saúde, 1988). The anterior mandibular sextant showed the lowest percent of null sextants (45.7% and 59.9% of sextants in age group 60-70 and 71 or +, respectively). A possible explanation for this is that due to the presence of salivary ducts in the region, which provide better irrigation, mechanical cleaning is permitted, which favors maintaining the teeth in the mouth for a longer time. (Table 3). The healthy sextants (code 0) showed very small percents, ranging from 0.0 to 8.5%, showing the poor condition of periodontal health in the elderly, which is in agreement with the data from the Ministry of Health (1988) for the 50-59 year age group, which ranges from 1.7 to 8.5%. With regard to code 4 (³ 6 mm periodontal pocket depth) the percent of individuals with the largest score varied between 0.0 to 6.7% (Table 3). In terms of the average number of sextants (Table 4) in the 60-70 year age group, the average was 4.29 null sextants, less than two teeth able to be examined, while there were only 0.29 healthy sextants and 0.12 sextants showing ³ 6 mm pocket depth (code 4). In the 71 or + year age group, the average number of healthy sextants fell to 0.16, while only 0.13 showed periodontal pockets of ³ 6 mm and 4.71 sextants showed null. These low values in relation to the diagnosis should be attributed to the absence of sextants for examination (71-78% of the total sextants). It may also be possible for the loss of teeth to be the result of periodontal problems or caries. Periodontal treatment needs are shown in Table 5. The results indicate that an average of 1.33 and 1.13 sextants in the 60-70 year and 71 or + year age group, respectively, are in need of oral hygiene, while 0.12 and 0.13, for the age groups mentioned, require surgical treatment. Thus, the need for treatment was concentrated on instruction in oral hygiene and prophylaxis, which can be developed by dental hygiene staff, as yet not frequently used in Brazil, which would provide improvement in public oral health aid at a more accesible cost-benefit relationship.
Knowledge about periodontal disease
Table 6 shows the results of a questionnaire to which the elderly were submitted concerning their level of knowledge about periodontal disease. In the over 60 year age group, this was very deficient, 43.3% having no idea about periodontal disease, while the remainder associated the disease with inflammation, infection, tooth looseness, acute inflammation, aphtha and gingivitis.
Knowledge about dental plaque
A summary of the questionnaire on knowlwdge about dental plaque is shown in Table 7. Ignorance about dental plaque was impressive, 86 (79.8%) had no knowledge, while the remainder had a vague notion, associating it with dirt, remains of food retained on the teeth, calculus and bacteria.
Table 8 shows how the elderly performed oral hygiene, which was mainly done with tooth brushing (43.3%) or mouthrinse + tooth brushing (36.5%), the use of dental floss not being a usual practice. However, it was observed that only one of the elderly answered that no oral hygiene was practiced and five used mouthrinse with water or other liquid, which means that, at least in this regard, the interviewed showed that they knew how to perform oral hygiene. It only remains to be known whether it was done well, which was not evaluated by any index, as a positive relationship is known to exist between plaque and periodontal disease (Lindhe, 1985). There are many data concerning the prediction of dental caries in the elderly. In these studies, factors such as oral hygiene, past caries experience, the use of fluorides, saliva, socio-economical status, educational level, and so on have been related to caries development (Krasse, 1988). With regard to the kind of tooth brush used by the population under study, 25% used soft bristle and 33.8% hard bristle, while the size of the toothbrush head (small, medium or large) was shown to be 16.0%, 41.3% and 14.4%, respectively. The high proportion of elderly using hard bristle is surprising, as this is not recommended by dentists because it can lead to tooth erosion, especially if radicular caries are prevalent. This could aggravate the clinical picture, which is already seriously affected by the great loss of teeth previously mentioned.
Last visit to the dentist
Table 9 shows the answers given by the population under study about the last visit to the dentist. Observe that 52% of those that went to the dentist during the last 2 years, 11.5% visited the dentist during the year of the interview, which should have shown better oral health. The previously shown clinical facts indicate either that the dentists are not diagnosing periodontal disease or that the attention/treatment model is not obtaining the desired effects.
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Correspondence: Antonio Carlos Pereira, Departamento de Odontologia Social, Faculdade de Odontologia de Piracicaba, UNICAMP, Av. Limeira 901, 14414-018 Piracicaba, SP, Brasil.
Accepted May 14, 1996
Electronic publication: February, 1997