Does the Demographic Transition Impact Health? The Oral Epidemiological Profile of the Elder Population
Root caries is one of the main dental problems among the dentate old elderly. The aim of our study was to evaluate the occurrence of root caries in 196 dentate elderly (mean age 79.3) in relation to their salivary flow rate, buffering capacity and salivary microbial counts. These subjects participated in the oral health component of the Helsinki Aging Study in 1990-1991. Clinical oral examinations included assessment of the state of root surfaces and salivary flow rates, both paraffin-wax-stimulated and unstimulated. Salivary buffering capacity and the growth of salivary mutans streptococci, lactobacilli and yeasts were determined by means of commercially available kits. Root caries occurred in 52% of men and in 35% of women (p < 0.05). Number of decayed (DRS) and decayed or filled (DFRS) root surfaces correlated (r = 0.16 to 0.26) with salivary microbial counts. No correlation appeared between DRS and subjects' salivary flow rates. Basic estimates on the association between DRS and salivary findings showed that microbial counts only produced significant odds ratios, from 2.0 to 3.5. However, in a log-linear model high salivary mutans streptococci and yeast counts together with male gender were associated with greater occurrence of root caries.