Introduction- Aging is a natural process. Old age should be regarded as a normal, inevitable biological phenomenon. As a result of the advances made in medicine and public health measures in the last half of the 20th century, there is a substantial increase in the life span of man. Elders above 65 years (old age) have health problems as a result of aging process, which calls for special consideration.
In India, with its population of over one billion people, people older than 60 years constitute 7.6% of the total population, which amounts to 76 million. Incidence of oral cancer, which is an old age disease, is highest in India.
A LINK TO SYSTEMIC HEALTH
The exploding geriatric population, coupled with recent discoveries surrounding links between oral health and systemic health, make it increasingly important for the dental community to be prepared to treat geriatric patients in the dental office or where they live. Ongoing research suggests that periodontal bacteria entering the bloodstream may be linked to conditions such as respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of stroke, and osteoporosis. Studies further suggest that periodontal bacteria can pose a threat to people whose health is already compromised by these conditions.3 In light of this growing body of research, comprehensive dental care becomes increasingly important to help improve our geriatric patients’ quality of life and outlook.
ENCOURAGING SENIOR VISITS AND PREVENTIVE CARE
A natural part of aging can be dramatically diminished pain perception, which can easily mask the need for professional dental care. Additionally, many individuals accept oral problems and tooth loss as inevitable results of aging, making dental visits unimportant to them. These patients may not understand that regular dental appointments become increasingly important as they age or that professional care can positively impact their quality of life and attitude. Given this, the entire dental team needs to encourage older patients to maintain daily oral hygiene as well as regular dental visits.
With patients who wear complete or partial dentures it is just as important to stress proper care and maintenance procedures as it is to encourage follow-up appointments. One report showed that only 19% of denture wearers remember their dental professionals’ instructions regarding regular checkups. In particular, it is advisable to stress oral re-evaluations for denture patients when considering bisphosphonate therapy. By remembering to emphasize these details to your elderly patients and explain why it is important they follow your advice, you can help make check-ups routine and not just a painful emergency.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
Dental care for seniors has always posed unique challenges. It requires understanding and sensitivity to the medical, psychological, social, and financial status of elderly patients. When providing care to aging patients with physical and sensory limitations, the entire dental team needs to ensure that patients feel welcomed and comfortable. Be sure that written information such as health history forms, business cards, brochures, appointment cards, and postcards are available in large-print
Arrange furniture to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and to reduce or eliminate barriers. Be sure to offer supportive armchairs (that are not too deep or too low) in easy-to-access areas of the reception room. For wheelchair transfers, always position the seat of the dental chair at the same height as the patient’s wheelchair..
BEFORE THE EXAM
Dental providers will find more success when they communicate clearly, respectfully, and reassuringly with elderly patients. Speak slowly and directly to the patient.
Knowledge of the patient’s medical and dental history aids the practitioner in planning and providing safe, personalized, appropriate, and comfortable treatment. An accurate health history is more than a legal necessity..
ENCOURAGING CAREGIVER INVOLVEMENT
Geriatric patients may have difficulty performing routine oral hygiene procedures due to physical limitations and/or memory problems, making the instruction and coordination of home care particularly important. Because of the possibility of actively declining skills. Demonstrate the use of power brushes and interdental aids and, most importantly, have the caregiver don gloves and participate. Dental professionals need to make sure patient and caregiver completely understand the oral care they will be practicing at home.
Geriatric healthcare is complex. The medical team’s goals include maximizing each person’s function, health, independence, and quality of life. Ideally, every geriatric team should include a dentist and/or dental hygienist to promote optimal quality of life through proper oral care. Poor dental health does not have to be an inevitable consequence for America’s aging population. By keeping abreast of the complex issues that impact geriatric dental care and offering treatment that takes into consideration the physical, mental, and social status of older adults, dental healthcare providers can enhance their older patients’ health, thus enabling them to enjoy healthier, longer lives with improved comfort, outlook, and quality of life.