A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society highlighted the lack of home-based health care options for elderly adults who are house-bound. According to dental industry website Dr. Biscuspid, the study's authors were a cohort of professionals affiliated with different New York health care organizations. Upon conclusion of the study, the group of researchers called for a partnership between dental and medical professionals to implement programs that would address the needs of the homebound elderly population. Homebound, as defined by Medicare, applies to those who cannot leave home frequently or for long periods, as doing so entails significant difficulty.
Oral health of elderly population found to be lacking
Between November 2010 and April 2011, the research team evaluated dental and oral health states in homebound elderly adults participating in New York City's Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors program. The assessment included 125 adults who were age 50 or older and had been part of the MSVD program for a minimum of six months.
Composed of a dental examiner, a recorder and an assistant, the group of researchers visited the patients at their homes. The team collected data to help gauge each subject's degree of interest in dentistry house calls. In addition, the study utilized a questionnaire to determine the prevalence of self-identified problems with oral health. A dental exam included evaluation of gums, soft-tissue and general oral health. The dental examiner also looked at the state of dentures.
Demonstrating the criticality of the need for in-home care, the researchers found at least one decayed tooth in 78 percent of this population. Forty-five percent of the patients required tooth extractions, and restorative care was necessary for 40 percent of the group. Of those using dentures, nearly one-fifth had ill-fitting appliances. Dentures were worn and required replacement in 28 percent of this group.
Study prompts demand for more integrated approach
The researchers underscored the correlation between general and oral health, adding that improvements in oral care could mitigate susceptibility to illness and reduce mortality risk. To better the standard of dental health care for the elderly, the researchers addressed the need for improved knowledge in the field of geriatric care. The team called for more specialized postgraduate work and the implementation of in-home clinical programs. The research group also proposed refined dental school curricula inclusive of home-based practices.
Upon gathering these conclusions, the study's authors hope changes in dental professionals' education and an overhaul of approaches to health care can provide grounds for addressing the oral health needs of elderly adults.