Why We Need An Interprofessional Approach
Advances in healthcare has enabled people to live longer, healthier lives. We ought to focus attention on the elderly population to ensure that longevity is abreast with good health. Geriatric medicine looks into the unique needs and medical conditions found in the elderly. Dentistry can also have a geriatric focus, seeing as we do, an increase in dental caries, periodontal disease, tooth loss, dry mouth, and oral cancer as our patients advance in age.
There are links between poor oral health and strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
There is research connecting poor oral health and “low self-esteem, decreased social interactions, malnutrition,dysphagia, and aspiration pneumonia.” Yet we do not automatically link them to dental hygiene.
Medical and dental expertise must push for an interprofessional approach to geriatric oral health and existing elder care practices. Better oral health not only contributes to overall well-being, but it can also act as a preventive measure for common conditions among elderly patients. Furthermore, other medical conditions may result in compromised oral health.
What is the link between quality of life (QOL) and oral care?
Prevention seems to be the best solution against poor oral health associated with several dental and non-dental conditions. Government and health organization-led programs are engineered toward improving the quality of life for senior citizens by maintaining adequate dental care. This way we can help protect them against many other medical issues. Malnutrition among the elderly is another area that impacts QOL. Tooth loss or ill-fitting dentures that affects chewing and the taste of food can lead to malnutrition, which also impacts the psychological and social well-being of the aged.
There is also the impact of dry mouth.
Studies have shown that dry mouth has the most significant impact on quality of life. The most common cause in geriatric patients is polypharmacy. More than 400 drugs list xerostomia (dry mouth) as a side effect. Dry mouth can cause problems in both oral tissues and function, including difficulty with chewing, swallowing, speech, and taste, and also increase the chances for dental caries and gingivitis. But not much is being done to help patients.
There is a lack of patient knowledge about treatment. Doctors prescribe these drugs, yet dentists see the effects on oral tissues. It’s a vicious cycle. Hence, an interprofessional approach could create a world of difference. All it requires is adequate education for patients and caregivers about xerostomia as a side effect of polypharmacy and its potential oral-systemic effects.