Although geriatric dentistry is not a recognized specialty of The American Dental Association, treating the elderly segment of our population requires a skill set not taught in Dental Schools.
I have 35 years of experience working at one of the top geriatric facilities as consistently rated by some of the leading hospital accreditation organizations. I was chief of the Dental service for more than two decades and am the only non-physician to ever preside as president of the medical staff. The facility had a dedicated Alzheimer’s unit well before such a unique specialized unit was recognized for the specialized unique care required. During that time frame I was privileged to work with many skilled gerontologist’s who educated me on the unique medical concerns needed to treat that very unique population. I gained a wealth of information on how to treat a severely medically compromised geriatric population. Many of them on multiple medications which interacted with each other.
As a dentist, I was practicing in uncharted waters as there was no protocol set in stone to treat Alzheimer’s patients. I had to develop and perfect skills and systems that were appropriate to meet the demands of such a challenging population. Not all residents were the same and required the same care. My day would vary from providing compassionate comforting dental care to someone with dementia, an adult with special needs, a long-term resident with MS, or to someone in the last stages of a terminal illness.
It became readily very apparent that, nothing could be cast in stone as each patient with their unique individual needs necessitated a custom plan, a custom approach to meet their individual needs. As the disease process and their level of cognition changed almost daily and sometime minute to minute, I had to re-evaluate and tailor my care at each visit.
I have taken the skills that I learned over those years and implemented them in my private practice. Compassionate, respectful and appropriate care, it’s a skill not taught in school but a complex philosophy of care my team delivers to our patients.