The dental profile of the population of most industrialised countries is changing. For the first time in at least a century most elderly people in the United Kingdom will soon have some of their own natural teeth. This could be beneficial for the frail and dependent elderly, as natural teeth are associated with greater dietary freedom of choice and good nutrition. There may also be problems including high levels of dental disease associated with poor hygiene and diet. New data from a national oral health survey in Great Britain is presented. The few dentate elderly people in institutions at the moment have poor hygiene and high levels of dental decay. If these problems persist as dentate younger generations get older, the burden of care will be substantial. Many dental problems in elderly people are preventable or would benefit from early intervention. Strategies to approach these problems are presented.
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