Dental patients come in all sizes, shapes and ages. Proper dental care must be age appropriate. It must also be well matched to a patient’s specific dental needs. One approach does not fit all. Here are a few tips to understand how dental care can meet the needs of a variety of age groups from young children to seniors.
Multiple Generations of Dental Patients
Today’s dentists may see multiple generations of patients: kids with tooth decay, parents who need root canals and grandparents trying to preserve their teeth and more. This means dentists must provide oral care and advice with an evidence-based clinical approach that matches all patients and their respective generations. Here at Salcetti & Associates we understand dentists must be careful not to be too tooth-centric, rather a more holistic approach is needed. Our dental planning of care considers the patient’s age, medical history, environment, cultural background, personal habits and dental needs.
Sugar and Children’s Dental Health
Today’s children face a growing threat from tooth decay, because of the large amount of sugary drinks and other high sugar snacks and sweets. Drinks with high sugar content are the main threat to their teeth. This can also be a problem for teenagers and young adults. The key is to educate young people about their diet and its impact on dental health. Dental professionals are discussing preventative dental care for children to prevent tooth decay, while educating both parents and children. The major take-away is to minimize sugary drinks.
Dental Care for Seniors
On the other end of the spectrum, more senior citizens are practicing preventive dental care measures and retaining their teeth. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their dental care has gotten easier. The elderly have complex medical histories and are more likely to keep their permanent teeth, but many older people are living in senior care environments and cared for by family. This can make access to adequate dental care a problem.
Education and training are the keys to success with the elderly. Not all facilities for senior citizens provide consistent dental care, which may be a matter of awareness. As more families take care of their older parents and grandparents at home, they need to learn about oral care too. Another concern is how seniors get to and from their dental office and how they schedule regular visits.
Communication Saves Teeth
Communication and education of family members are both essential to resolving these issues, regardless of the age of the patient, though the modes of communication may vary. As communication technologies evolve, dental staff must cater to all of their patients and their individual needs. One question to ask is: are the modes of communication age appropriate? These communication methods can help improve dental health and save teeth.
The Body as a Whole
In addition to communication about oral health, dental professionals must consider social factors as well as medical considerations. They must work more with other medical professionals to evaluate their patients’ overall health and share ideas. The body is whole and doesn’t stop at the mouth. The mouth and teeth are influenced so much by underlying systemic issues and this is especially the case with the elderly.
Age Specific Treatments will Change Dentistry
Looking ahead, these shifting challenges and the growth in dental care for seniors influence the way dentistry is practiced. Understanding systemic health and facilitating access to care, particularly among the elderly, represent the biggest changes and challenges. This will lead to prevention messages and interventions to be more prevalent. An increased understanding of age-appropriate interventions and communications will improve patient outcomes to the benefit of us all.