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Dental Health – Geriatric Patient Article Stresses Education – No Kidding?

Patient Education is All-So-Important in Dental Health

Patient's Need Continual Reminders About The Facts of Oral Care!

There was an interesting article at rdhmag.com which is apparently a website for dental hygienists. The article was about the problems that geriatric patients face with periodontal disease.

The author of the article, Karen Donaldson, CDA, RDH, BS, EFDA, mentions how much she tries to educate her patients about what it takes to maintain periodontal health.

Bravo to Karen Donaldson. I wish that all hygienists took such an approach. Instead of just talking about patient education, it would be great if more hygienists and dentist actually engaged in it.

I am over 40 now and I can honestly say that I have not had a single hygienist who actually educated me, without my prompting that is, on how to be more effective with my periodontal health. If you don’t ask, you often get zero information. Anyway, I digress. I hope more hygienist will take Karen Donaldson’s approach.

Here is part of what she wrote in her article:

“Stressing immaculate plaque removal and explaining the connection between oral health and systemic health to all patients helps prepare those that will become high-risk geriatric patients. The better their oral home care is now, the healthier their hard and soft oral tissues will be when their abilities to remove plaque daily are diminished by systemic conditions. Stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and severe arthritis are just a few of the conditions that may force people to rely on others to maintain their oral health.

Patients that achieved average to immaculate oral health during their teen and young adult life will most likely have some areas of periodontal disease to maintain. Once they reach a systemic state that compromises their daily abilities of good oral health, those areas will progress faster than normal, even with regular six-month visits. This could place them in the category of advanced periodontitis, and in a lifestyle that prohibits quality daily oral care.

If we educate all patients of these risks, we will help them understand the importance of oral health related to systemic health in geriatrics. The more we educate our patients about the connections of systemic and oral health, perhaps the public will demand that medical care include oral health care. This is an area dental hygiene needs to embrace and promote for our future as well.”

 link to the full article

This is fantastic!  However, it is far from the reality of what happens in most dental offices. This is true not just for geriatric patients, but patient’s of all ages.  If the education was continuing throughout a lifetime, the patient should be prepared to do well in the elder years.

Periodontal disease is indeed a serious problem.  Prevention is the key.  Daily disruption of plaque is the key.

But I am still surprised at how many dentists and hygienists are unaware of the power of a tool that has been around for over 20 years.  Well documented, studied and published twice in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Periodontology  – you would think that word would have traveled FAST about this tool. 

It is up to blogs like mine to inform people it appears!  This is why I wrote the Kindle and Nook book:  How To Stop Gum Disease in 4 Easy Steps.

I hope that more hygienists will follow the example set by Karen Donaldson and begin educating each patient, not once, but EVERY time they come in for a regular checkup and dental cleaning.

When we are in the chair with hygienist’s hands in our mouth, we have no option but to listen.  This is the perfect time to deliver the education needed.

Ok, I do understand the other side of the story as well!  Patient’s need to ASK intelligent questions and show that they understand what the hygienist is saying and also what they can do about it.

Hygienist’s and patients both have a responsibility, but the responsibility of education should rest on the dental practitioners.   The patient’s responsibility is to  ‘really’ listen and to ‘get it’.     Both sides need to work on their parts of this!

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