As your patients get older, factors beyond brushing and flossing play a significant role when it comes to maintaining a healthy smile. In 2019, there were about 54.1 million people (PDF) aged 65 and over in the United States. By 2040, that number is expected to reach almost 81 million.
We spoke with Dr. Michael Tarighati, our dental consultant with advanced training in geriatric dentistry, about how best to serve this population. Here are four tips he shared that will help your patients in their golden years.
Dr. Michael Tarighati
Each of your patients is unique, and so are their wants and needs.Take time to listen to your patients and understand what’s important to them before offering treatment recommendations. Provide options in best, better and good categories. Make sure all their questions have been answered and that they understand the proposed treatment recommendations by having them repeat the treatment back to you.
Once you have a better understanding, you can:
Americans over 65 are keeping more of their teeth, but this has given rise to new challenges. Because of this, it can be useful to think about how you can help patients manage their oral health at home.
Many adults 65 and older will need some form of long-term care services in their lives. About 80% of this care is likely to come from volunteer sources, such as friends or family. These caregivers may be a valuable resource when it comes to helping your patients, as they can provide insight into schedules, at-home routines, mental, emotional, and physical well-being and more.
In cases where a patient is transported to your office by an assisted living facility or nursing home, make sure to communicate the patient’s treatment plan (including alternative options), procedure details and post-operative instructions in a simple, written format. If a patient has a legal guardian, including one assigned by the state, communicate their care information and obtain the guardian’s consent before proceeding with the treatment. If such a patient doesn’t have a legal guardian, be sure that a signed informed consent is on file. To stay in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, don’t share such information with anyone else unless agreed to by the patient.
Making your practice accessible is especially important for aging patients. With the right technology and some consideration, you can make it easy for everyone to get the care they need.
Finally, for every patient, don’t forget to tell them about online resources such as the Grin! newsletter and the wellness library! These resources are full of informative articles that cover tips for maintaining oral health, overall wellness and more.