On Friday, January 14, 2014, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) participated in the “Healthy Aging in the Commonwealth: Charting a Path Forward” conference at the Boston Newton Marriott. The conference was produced by Tufts Health Plan Foundation in partnership with the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum. Research Associate Professor in the Department of General Dentistry Dr. Sok-Ja Janket and Geriatric Dental Fellow Dr. Steven Karpas presented posters at the conference. Professor in the Department of General Dentistry and Director of the Geriatric Fellowship Dr. Paula K. Friedman and Assistant Professor in the Departments of General Dentistry and Operative Dentistry Dr. Bing Liu attended the conference.
Dr. Karpas presented a poster about the current status of xerostomia (dry mouth syndrome) research. His poster, “The management of xerostomia,” described the symptoms and risk factors associated with the condition. Xerostomia is caused by reduced or absent salivary flow. It can be a symptom of various medical conditions, a side effect of radiation to the head and/or neck, or certain medications. It’s a common issue (around 20%) for older adults.
“It’s not related to age in and of itself, but usually linked to side effects common in medications older adults frequently use,” explained Dr. Karpas.
Xerostomia can lead to other medical ailments, such as poor nutrition, dental problems and psychological issues. The constant sore throat and burning sensation in the mouth create problems with chewing and swallowing. Denture wearers can find themselves battling sores and having their tongue stick to their palates. In some cases the overall impact of the issues associated with xerostomia leads to depression in the afflicted as well.
Dr. Janket’s poster, “Good oral health leads to good cardiovascular health: A 15 year follow-up study in Finnish elders,” investigated the correlation between having many healthy teeth and better survival rates from cardiovascular disease mortality.
“Good maintenance of oral condition was associated with longer survival from cardiovascular disease mortality,” said Dr. Janket.
Additional research indicated that having more teeth did not necessarily guarantee longevity because some people with fewer teeth, but better maintenance of teeth lived longer than those who had more teeth, but did not maintain a healthy oral condition.
Dr. Janket engaged the conference attendees by giving quizzes and handing out dark chocolate candy for winning answers. She is extending this same quiz to the GSDM community. Please email Dr. Janket at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, March 7 with the subject line, “Healthy Aging Quiz” to receive the quiz. People who correctly identify both men in question will receive two pieces of dark chocolate!