Additional Resources for the Older Adult During the COVID-19 Pandemic

DATE: September 2020
AUTHOR:
Mandy Dennis, RDH

As we become older, oral habits and medical concerns may change. Challenges can include dry mouth, increased snacking frequency, sipping drinks containing sugars and exposed roots. Habits, which were once sufficient, fall short of the new need. Understanding what to look for and knowing the resources available can help our older patients get the products and information they require.

A change of health

There are many things that change as we get older. Many times, we aren’t prepared for the physical changes. With the newest obstacles surrounding the day to day differences of the pandemic, some older individuals also may not have the same access to resources they once had. Nutritional counseling in conjunction with oral health recommendations will be important for patients with a higher risk for dental caries.

How are we meeting the older adult needs?

Many dental offices can participate in teledentistry, which allows patients to have a distanced appointment. This type of care cannot replace a visit for dental care; however, it can assist the patient in getting needed prescriptions, advice and recommendations. Teledentistry allows dental professionals to do a video appointment and address specific dental concerns, which may be alleviated at home. Listening to your patients concerns with help in making the best recommendations. Having this as a resource, if allowed in your state, can be of great assistance to the patient who may be unable or unwilling to attend their dental office during the pandemic. Having discussions with our patients and helping them get the things they need is vital. During the pandemic, it is especially important to make sure that patients receive needed caries prevention. Once, we may have been able to make a recommendation and the patient may have gone on the hunt for the item! With the restrictions of many stores, patients may be less likely to find the recommended items and less willing to go looking after their dental visit and you have provided recommendations. Research has shown that daily use of a 5,000 ppm fluoride toothpaste or gel helps to prevent dental caries and can arrest and reverse root caries. For this purpose, Colgate PreviDent 5000 Booster Plus can be prescribed by the dentist. Other concerns such as dentinal sensitivity in exposed roots, can also be addressed by using Colgate Prevident 5000 Sensitive, which contains 5% potassium nitrate as a desensitizer.

Spending time to hear the patient

Many patients are ready to come into the office, to follow through and begin recommended treatment. Fear or concern of the inability to follow through and the risk of additional dental needs may emotionally connect them to coming back into the dental office. For other patients, COVID-19 has created a hurdle in returning to the office for dental visits as a result of concerns and anxiety. Encouraging patients and reassuring them that you are doing everything you can to provide them with safe care can help to alleviate the “getting out” fears and help them complete the needed treatment. It’s important to listen carefully, to make proper recommendations once they arrive in the office. For patients who are still reluctant to return unless it is really essential, remote recommendations are a good option.

Takeaways

Older patients often have challenges that impact their oral health and dental cares. It's important that we listen to patients' concerns and can address their specific needs. Helping patients find solutions can, in turn, help them to retain their natural teeth and appreciate the resources you are recommending.