As the baby boomer generation ages, one of the major worries is how a larger population of elderly patients will affect the overall health care system. The dental industry is no different, as dentists and periodontists will be searching for ways to keep this growing base of patients in peak health while meeting budgets and providing appropriate care.
One of the major problems that dentists face is a situation wherein a long-time dental appliance, such as a bridge or dentures, begins to fail. As you may well know, there is really no such thing as a “permanent” bridge, and the most one can hope is that these types of appliances will last 15 years or so.
There are many problems when this happens to an elderly patient. First and foremost, there is the declining gum health that is fairly inevitable with old age, which may in fact be why the appliance started to fail in the first place. There is also the expense of these types of procedures to consider which may be too much for those on a fixed income. Last but not least, most of these procedures require that the patient be heavily sedated, and older folks with declining health may not the best candidates for sedation dentistry.
So where does this leave the oral care professional who is looking to provide dentistry for an aging population? One technique that is being used more these days is the implementation of temporary bridges and other appliances. While, for various reasons, temporary (or removable) fixtures are not the most popular among either dentists or patients, they sometimes present the best solution due to the factors discussed above.
In a world where cosmetic dentistry seems to have reigned supreme for such a long time, temporary fixtures have lost their appeal over the years. However, for aging patients and those on a budget, these removable prosthodontic devices are experiencing a bit of resurgence. This emerging demand has some professionals heading back to school, as it were, in order to brush up on dental techniques they may not have practiced in years, if ever. These dentists are finding that other concerns such as overall health and affordability are leading their patients away from the cosmetic and more toward pragmatic solutions.
At the moment, removable appliances are still an emerging market. But as their popularity grows, more and more dentists will be reacquiring the skills necessary to keep their elderly patients happy and healthy.