Barriers to dental attendance in older patients

Authors: Shanahan, D; O’Neill, D

Source: Irish Medical Journal

Health professionals in Ireland are increasingly concerned about the quality of oral health in older patients. The aim of this study is to identify the obstacles that face this age-group when accessing dental care, so that we are in a better position to address them. A questionnaire was completed by 105 patients attending a geriatric outpatient clinic. Over 50 percent of respondents had not attended a dentist in over 36 months, for the reasons that ‘I have no problem or need for treatment’ (62%) and ‘I have no teeth, and therefore I have no need to go’ (54%). While it is common to assume that no teeth means no need to see a dentist, research shows that regular dental visits are vital for ensuring the early screening of oral cancer and other mucosal pathologies, and the optimisation of existing rosthesis/restorations. The chief recommendation of this paper is thus to provide better education and access to older people on the importance of visiting the dentist.

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