In our community we are finding more and more people over the age of 70 are opting to retain their own natural teeth. Where perhaps once in the past they would move to a full set of dentures, we’re seeing a greater desire to maintain natural dentition, keeping their teeth for longer. Whether that is all natural teeth, some natural teeth supported by a partial plate or with implant placements. Those with pre-existing dentures are looking at having implants placed to support dentures, maintain bone levels, provide stability and increase chewing function. All of these options are beneficial to the patient; however our management has to change for those of us that care for the elderly.
Access to dental care has become easier for the elderly, with consideration given to wheelchair access and disabled parking. As people get older, the ability to maintain their teeth and the need for dental care increases. Unfortunately for those needing to move into aged care facilities this is often the start of the decline of their oral health or they present with teeth in a poor state. Often with the reduced ability to have the manual dexterity to clean their own teeth diminishing, more care is needed from other people, be that family, dentists or aged care nursing staff. Additional cleaning aids or a change to what was previously used needs to be looked at regularly. Consideration must be given to daily oral hygiene required for these patients that have chosen to retain their teeth or have implants placed. Whilst many still have their dentures cleaned in a cleaning solution overnight on the bedside table, more and more are requiring help. The basics of twice daily brushing, perhaps the use of an electric toothbrush and a ‘tooth friendly’ diet should all form part of their daily routine.