Dental care for seniors is priority at Clinic

May 10, 2022

When Irene first saw Dr. Charles Wiseman last year, she was distraught with pain from a toothache and a general fear of the dentist. It had been years since Irene had received dental care, and because she was in her late 60s, she was already at higher risk for dental issues. 

But once she met Wiseman, her fears about seeing a dentist subsided. 

“I can get panic attacks with dental care,” Irene said. “But Dr. Wiseman is very kind and professional. He explains things to me. I still have fear and anxiety, but I’m used to him now and he helps calm me down.” 

At that first visit, Wiseman saw several dental issues that needed to be dealt with, including gum disease, excessive tartar buildup and cavities. But first he needed to address her toothache and performed an extraction. 

“We got her out of pain. She was very happy and appreciative, and said that she felt she was treated with respect,” Wiseman said. “Her demeanor changed dramatically after that first visit. Now when I see her, she’ll always give me a big smile.”  

Special attention for special needs 

Since then, Irene has returned for deep cleanings to make her gums healthier and fillings to fix her cavities. Wiseman has also given her a fluoride treatment, one of the focus areas of a grant the Clinic received from Delta Dental aimed at helping seniors get the dental care they need.  

“With aging, we typically notice enamel erosion, gum recession and disease, root decay, brittle teeth and fractures, and tooth mobility,” said Dr. Jaspreet Kaur, Venice Family Clinic’s dental director. “Seniors also generally take a lot of medications, which can cause dry mouth and acid reflux, both of which make seniors more prone to these problems. And just with wear and tear over time, you’re going to have tooth sensitivity. This is why we apply fluoride varnishes.” 

To help combat these issues, our dentists emphasize preventive care, including fluoride varnishes, mouth washes to help with dry mouth, as well as recommendations on which foods and drinks to avoid to prevent enamel erosion and other damage. 

Every dental patient, including seniors, receives information upon check-in about the Clinic’s weekly free food markets, which provide fresh fruits and vegetables to our patients and community members. 

“When our senior patients experience problems with their teeth, they often start to change their diet to accommodate their pain, and not always in a healthy way. Some have said they’re living on mashed potatoes,” Kaur said. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s important that we see our seniors regularly, so we can not only stabilize them if they have problems with their teeth, but also to get them linked to resources they need to live healthier lives.” 

Setting goals and making new habits  

To make sure our patients get the care they need, our front desk proactively calls seniors to get them back into care. 

“We want to get seniors in sooner before their issues become an emergency, and we want to see them more often because they’re at higher risk,” Kaur said. 

Irene is glad she now receives regular dental care.  

“I’m feeling better, and my teeth are cleaner. Not having tooth pain is wonderful,” she said. “I still have a ways to go, but I don’t dwell on the negative. You can’t live in the past or the future, so I say enjoy the present.”