UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 11 | July
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
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
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