By 2030, in just 8 years, the senior population is set to rise to 9.5 million individuals, making up 23% of the Canadian population. As the population ages, it is necessary for this new wave of doctors to understand the risks that come with treating the older population, and how to mitigate risk factors.
Geriatric patients are at a higher risk for gum disease, tooth decay/loss, oral cancer, and host of other, potentially fatal, oral diseases. So, what can you do to prepare for geriatric patients in your practice?
The first step is to request all senior patients to bring a printed list of their medications, along with the dosages. This will ensure you, and your staff, are aware of any medications the patient may be taking, even if it hasn’t been included on their patient history form. Beyond medication, it is important to speak to the patient about any existing conditions which can affect their oral health, such as arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
Based on their previous medical history and current medications and conditions, it is time to devise a treatment plan. Most geriatric patients are more sensitive to invasive dental treatments, so it is necessary to create a treatment plan that takes into effect their age, medical conditions, and previous history.
Lastly, the most important step of geriatric oral care is ensuring you are making your patient feel comfortable and safe. Fear of the dentist only seems to increase with age sometimes, and combining this with their already elevated health risks, it is crucial the patient feel relaxed to provide the best oral health care possible.
As the population ages, it is the responsibility of healthcare professionals to tailor their treatments to their patients’ specific needs, and always be extra cautious when dealing with high risk patients.
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