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7 Things to Look for When Treating Senior Patients

Caring for senior patients comes with unique challenges that clinicians must be prepared to handle, as the average American is living longer.

Caring for senior patients comes with unique challenges that clinicians must be prepared to handle, as the average American is living longer. Chronic conditions, mobility, and neurological disorders are some factors to consider when treating mature patients. Here are 7 things to look for when treating senior patients.

1. Are they taking medication?

Because senior patients are often taking medications to manage existing health problems, clinicians must be able to identify if an oral health issue is related to normal aging, or a side effect of medication use.

2. Limitations

Senior patients who are unable to perform routine self-care due to mobility or neurological issues, such as Alzheimer’s, need special consideration. Clinicians may recommend hygiene aids, such as toothbrushes with specially designed handles, more frequent recare appointments, or antimicrobial oral health products to control biofilm proliferation. Patients’ caregivers should be instructed on how to perform effective self-care.

3. Caries risk

As xerostomia is a common side effect of medication use, clinicians must assess patients’ caries risk to help guide treatment recommendations. These patients may require prescription fluoride, education on dietary choices, or over-the-counter relief.

4. Are they nervous?

Sitting in the dental chair may cause anxiety in older patients. Using a calm, soothing voice, speaking in a non-condescending tone, or in some cases, recommending sedation, are strategies to help put the patient at ease.

5.Mouth discomfort

Gingivitis, periodontitis, and angular chelitis are common among senior citizens.

6. Chronic conditions

Chronic diseases must be carefully considered when deciding a course of treatment, as each ailment affects oral health differently. Common chronic conditions experienced by senior patients include hypertension, diabetes, oral cancer, and osteoporosis.

7. Nutritional habits

By asking about eating habits, clinicians can determine if patients are experiencing dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or steering away from foods they enjoy due to mouth pain, which can result in lower nutritional intake. A referral to a specialist to help with dysphagia can then be made.

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