Sometimes change is good. That is what the Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence found out after developing an onsite dental health program for long-term care residents in Vancouver.
Established in 2002 as a joint initiative of the Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence and the UBC Faculty of Dentistry, the program is the first of its kind in Canada. Prior to the program, over 70 per cent of long-term care residents had significant dental problems. It was not only challenging for them to seek out proper dental care, but also difficult to find dentists who were equipped and trained to deal with the cognitive and physical impairments of people who were frail and elderly.
That has all changed with the establishment of the Geriatric Dentistry Service. The pioneering program focuses on the dual role of treatment and prevention, but also trains young dentists, educates residents and staff on daily oral hygiene, and conducts research on geriatric oral care.
Awarded with the BC Medical Association's Excellence in Health Promotion award in 2005, the program now serves Providence's 700 long-term care residents, as well as 300 residents in three other Vancouver Coastal Health residential facilities. And the service was recently expanded to three more long-term care facilities in the health region.
These much-needed changes in the provision of dental care have encouraged residents to take control of their oral health, eat more solid foods, and experience less pain. For Vancouver seniors in residential care, the Geriatric Dentistry Service is undeniably a change for the better.