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Oral health is an integral component of age-friendly care

Aug 15, 2022

Drs. A. Enrique Varela and José E Rodríguez started at University of Utah Health in 2016. Dr. Varela is a dentist, who came to Utah from University of Missouri Kansas City, where he knew one of Dr. Rodríguez's best friends, Dr. Michael C Journee, DDS. On top of that, they sat together at New Faculty Orientation in the fall of 2016.

In 2021, Dr. Varela and Dr. Rodríguez began exploring ways that their careers overlapped. Encouraged by Dr. Hume, then Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs, Dr. Rodríguez sought out opportunities to collaborate with Dr. Varela. Their shared interest in geriatrics led them to publish, along with Dr. Tim Farrell, “Oral Health is an integral component of age-friendly care.

Geriatrics has an elegant summary of the principles of geriatric care, called the 4Ms ("four M's"). The 4Ms framework stands for "Medication, Mobility, Mentation, and What Matters Most." Originally, Drs. Varela and Rodríguez had thought to add a fifth M, for the mouth, to help everyone remember that oral health is a big part of quality of life for older adults. Dr. Farrell, however, helped to move the mouth into the existing framework, and now oral health can be considered part of "What Matters Most" for older adults.

Because those who have periodontal disease have poorer cardiovascular health outcomes when compared to those who do not, it is essential to prevent those diseases in our older patients. In addition, periodontal disease is associated with Alzheimer’s type dementia and may be an early sign.

These two reasons alone have brought this group of a dentist, a family doc, and a geriatrician together to produce this letter to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society editor, found here.