Friday, May 30, 2008

Dentistry and Geriatrics

The current CDAA (Canadian Dental Assistant's Association) magazine edition focuses entirely on dental care for the elderly. This,indeed, highlights a timely topic. More individuals will be in various types of facilities in the future and their dental health should not be neglected, both from the standpoint of standard hygiene care, as well as diagnosis and treatment of problems. These problems vary from caries, periodontal disease, taking care of prostheses and making sure that they fit well, diagnosing cancer and infections.

Maintaining oral function and esthetics adds significantly to the quality of life of the elderly, not to mention the implications for systemic health. Oral disease should not be ignored, as the discomfort can be tremendous and elderly cannot always communicate appropriately. Dementia patients especially require extra help and awareness from their caregivers.

In the province of Saskatchewan,legislation is being enacted that will allow dental assistants to work in elder facilities without the immediate supervision of the dentist. This should be happening in all provinces to help maintain oral health in institutional settings.

Regular hospitals and intensive care units should also consider utilizing dental assitants. We have seen patients that were released from hospital, where they were unconscious, and found afterward that their dentition suffered most significantly. This is an unacceptable and most unfortunate result of hospitalization and a great source of anger and resultant hardships.

The picture above shows the dentition of an elderly person with a healthy dentition. The recession is significant, but the teeth are firm and clean. As we get older, there will be many changes, not all of them positive. Keeping your teeth, even as in the picture above, would be a blessing.

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