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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 11 | July 12, 2001

Study puts the bite on dental care for older adults

Quality of life, self-esteem issues and the ability to eat normally drives elders study on dental health

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Dentures soaking in a glass on the nightstand is an image often associated with aging. The reality of dental care for older adults, however, is a complex and challenging area of dentistry, say the members of the Faculty of Dentistry's Elders Link with Dental Education, Research and Service (ELDERS) group.

The group, comprising Prof. Michael MacEntee, Assoc. Prof. Joanne Walton, Clinical Assistant Prof. Michele Williams, Asst. Prof. Chris Wyatt , together with UBC's head of Geriatric Medicine Dr. Lynn Beattie and other dental-care associates, aims to improve oral care for older adults, especially those in a residential care setting.

"Elderly people tell us that the condition of their teeth is an important issue not just for their physical health but for their self-esteem and quality of life," says MacEntee, whose research has focused on the treatment needs and wants of older patients.

The group, formed about five years ago, is participating in a randomized clinical trial to examine the benefits of using mouthwash to decrease oral infections for individuals who are at high risk of dental decay and tooth loss. The research, which also involves the University of Washington, has 400 participants in the Lower Mainland and is expected to be complete in 2004.

The study's findings will help inform care and preventive treatments for older people, especially those in extended care residences, hospitals and other settings.

Another group initiative sees MacEntee and Wyatt investigating dental care education approaches for nurses and aides in about 15 extended care facilities in the Lower Mainland.

"Many caregivers are uncomfortable with residents' oral care because they are not trained in oral hygiene procedures and may have experienced patient resistance and even biting," says Wyatt.

The study will be complete by the end of the year.

An ELDERS program led by Walton looks at the cost-effectiveness of replacing missing teeth with dentures supported by implants in the jawbones.

Older adults are keeping their teeth into old age and about half of long-term care residents have some teeth remaining, says Walton. The use of acrylic removable partial dentures offers a simple and low-cost solution for the replacement of missing teeth for hospitalized older adults.

Walton and MacEntee are developing realistic outcome measures to determine the benefits of these kinds of interventions.

For more information about the ELDERS group check the Web site at www.dentistry.ubc.ca/elder.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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