The geriatric adult population is expanding rapidly in the United States, with more
of these patients expected to visit the dentist in the coming years. Understanding
the dental community’s preparedness and comfort treating this demographic is timely.
Survey questions were developed to assess how dentists treat geriatric patients, what
challenges they face, and what tools they need to provide the best care. This set
of questions was administered electronically and emailed to the American Dental Association
Clinical Evaluators (ACE) Panel on March 29, 2022. After 2 weeks, the survey closed,
and data were summarized descriptively.
Of the 269 respondents, 59% indicated that treating geriatric patients is more challenging
than treating nongeriatric patients. The most frequently cited challenges include
comorbidities and their management (86%), cognitive impairment (68%), and home care
needs for some of these patients (69%). The top 3 symptoms seen in these patients
are dry mouth (89%), carious lesions (86%), and tooth wear (75%). Seventy-six percent
of respondents reported being comfortable treating this demographic, and most (58%)
indicated that training as a student contributed to this competency.
Most respondents are comfortable treating geriatric patients, but they still face
many challenges, with managing comorbidities with dental treatment a top concern.
A sound understanding of the impact of aging and associated medical treatments on
oral tissues and patient management is essential. Equally important is finding innovative
ways to improve access to care for this vulnerable population.