Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Clinical geriatrics

Diagnosis and management of oral mucosal lesions in older people: a review

Victoria Ewana1 c1 and Konrad Stainesa2

a1 Sunderland Royal Hospital, Sunderland, UK

a2 Dental School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Oral mucosal lesions occur frequently in older people and are important as they may reduce quality of life, represent pre-malignant change or indicate systemic disease. The commonest mucosal lesions in adults are denture-related lesions such as stomatitis, angular cheilitis, ulcers and hyperplasia, and occur in 8.4% of the adult population. In the hospital setting, oral mucosal lesions may lead to malnutrition, slow rehabilitation and recovery from illness, and adversely affect quality of life. The two major risk factors associated with oral lesions are denture use and smoking, and frequently older people have been exposed to both of these. Commonly used drugs such as antihypertensives, antidepressants and antibiotics may have oral mucosal side-effects, and polypharmacy may worsen these. Decreased awareness of changes in the oral mucosa, or inability to raise concerns due to dementia, delirium, social isolation, or difficulty accessing dental care may further compound the problem. Hospital admission could represent an opportunity to intervene, but oral mucosal lesions, and indeed oral hygiene, are areas which can be overlooked by doctors. This article is intended to highlight common or important oral mucosal diseases and increase awareness of these conditions for the practising hospital or community geriatrician.


c1 Address for correspondence: Victoria Ewan, Sunderland Royal Hospital, Kayll Road, Sunderland, SR4 7TP, UK.