Dental care for the aging population

By the year 2030, the population of the United States will have 71 million people who are age 65 or older. In some states, 25% of the people will be age 65 and older. The demographics will change as the baby boomers continue to age. With the aging population, everyone will be faced with the challenges of health care, and, especially, dental care for this diverse group. How can we prepare ourselves for this future? Raising awareness about the importance of dental health and continued need for dental care is one of the first steps. We want to create a strong emphasis on educating our healthcare providers and caregivers in our assisted living facilities, nursing homes, retirement homes, etc. to provide dental care to senior citizens. This will raise the level of awareness of the importance for continued dental care for good health as people age. In our dental practice we emphasize to patients the importance of continued oral health. Semiannual dental exams are important to screen for cavities, oral cancer, and periodontal disease. Oral health has been shown to have a link to systemic health. Maintaining good habits of daily flossing, brushing, and water-piking is not only important to prevent dental disease of the teeth and gums, but also may help to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and help control diabetes. Treatment for elderly patients may be complex and may require a team approach. Geriatric patients have medical, physical or social situations which need to be assessed in order to provide optimal dental care. Many elderly patients have complex medical histories and are taking multiple medications. A thorough medical history needs to be taken and we may consult the patient’s general physician and specialist before treatment begins. Physical disabilities limit dexterity and overall mobility. These limitations need to be taken into account with oral hygiene recommendations and treatment planning. Additionally, a patient’s mental capabilities must be considered. If a patient cannot comprehend, he needs a caregiver present who may perform simple tasks like brushing and cleaning a denture. Many elderly patients have experienced some degree of tooth loss. These patients may wear permanently cemented bridges, partial dentures, or even complete dentures. All of these appliances require some type of maintenance. Dental decay may cause loss of bridges or tooth loss of the “holding” teeth for the partial dentures, so the teeth need to be checked and filled. Also, patients without teeth need denture maintenance and soft tissue exams for oral cancer. Bone loss accelerates when the patient wears a poorly fitting soft tissue-borne prosthesis (a denture). Patients do not understand that bone is being lost over time and at even greater rates beneath poorly fitting dentures. Every 5 years a denture needs to be relined or remade to replace additional bone loss by atrophy of bone and soft tissue. This also helps for proper function of the denture and proper chewing and digestion. Our elderly population is growing at an accelerated rate. Raising awareness among patients and the community with regards to dental care will help our elderly population age well. I feel our dental practice will be able to play a part in providing this care and helping to raise awareness.

We have three dentists in our practice: Dr. Craig E. Allison, Dr. Terry Hulihan, and Dr. Shannon Allison. Each one graduated from UNC-CH School of Dentistry. Our office is located at 15 Aviemore Drive in Pinehurst. For off-site dental treatment and evaluation, we have two certified hygienists and all three dentists. Our dental practice has over 50 years of general dentistry experience in Moore County. Having such a long history in this area, we are well aware of our community’s demographics. The demographics are reflected in our patient population. We see the needs and challenges our patients have and how these change throughout life. We have experienced first-hand many of the challenges which come with treating elderly patients. Within our dental practice, approximately 50% of our patients are >60 years old. We have several patients who live in retirement homes and assisted living facilities who attend dental appointments on a regular basis. We also have situations where one spouse is able to attend dental appointments, but his/her significant other is unable to come to our office. This is usually due to reduced function of the patient. These patients represent just a few patients with dental care delivery issues. Offering on-site evaluations at their respective living facilities would benefit everyone. These patients would receive dental evaluations and cleanings, the caregivers would learn how to better help with oral hygiene, and the facilities staff would learn how to better help this patient with dental care and apply this knowledge to other patients. We can see the need for dental care in our senior living centers. We would appreciate the opportunity to offer services to these patients.



Services

Preventive Dentistry

Cosmetic Dentistry

Implant Dentistry

Restorative Dentistry