SINGAPORE: The first dental clinic in Singapore catering to the elderly and patients with special needs was officially opened on Tuesday (Jun 21).
The Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic at the National Dental Centre Singapore offers a full range of oral health services customised for patients with complex medical needs as well as those with intellectual or physical disabilities.
For example, every room is equipped with dental X-ray equipment so that patients do not need to be transferred to another room to get their X-rays done.
Kiran Raj, 21, is a patient who could benefit from the new clinic. After being diagnosed with developmental problems, Kiran’s mother had concerns that he might “act up” during dental treatment – but the clinic has dentists on hand who are specially trained in behavioural management, who were able to make him feel at ease and teach his mother how to better care for his teeth.
“In the beginning, he had very yellow teeth because of all the medication he took. And he refused to open his mouth and I had difficulty brushing his teeth. But once I came here, the dentist taught me how to massage muscles in his face, to relax his mouth. And then he opened (his mouth) better,” said Kiran’s mother, Jothi Marimuthu.
The one-stop specialty dental clinic is also designed with elderly-friendly features such as handrails, low counters and large and bright signage. Wide walkways and large waiting areas also help accommodate bedridden or wheelchair-bound patients.
A wheelchair-friendly dental chair has also been installed to allow patients to remain in the wheelchair during dental treatment.
The National Dental Centre Singapore said oral health is a critical but often overlooked component of the overall well-being of geriatric and special needs patients.
“In a sense, there was an unmet need. We were just coping. But now we really do need to take this seriously to respond to Singapore’s rapidly ageing population and growing demand for these services,” said Associate Professor Poon Choy Yoke, Director of National Dental Centre Singapore.
The clinic has seen more than 4,000 patient visits since it started operations late last year. A second geriatric and special needs dentistry clinic is being planned at the upcoming Centre for Oral Health at the National University Health System.
MORE DENTAL HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS TO BETTER SERVE SENIORS
On its part, the Government is investing in training dental healthcare professionals to better serve seniors.
Speaking at the opening, Health Minster Gan Kim Yong said oral health and dental care must be incorporated as part of the Government’s overall strategy in seniors’ health. He added that the Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic will collaborate with community partners to provide oral hygiene education, screening and care for the elderly.
“We must also invest in training dental healthcare professionals to better serve our seniors and undertake more research in disease trends in geriatric dentistry,” said Mr Gan. “Oral health specialists providing care for medically complex frail elderly and younger Singaporeans with special needs must be further trained.”
“The Ministry of Health has offered scholarships for dentists who are keen to take up the challenges of geriatric and special needs dentistry. Seven scholarships have been awarded and four dentists have since completed their specialty training,” Mr Gan added.
Dental work being done at the Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic is considered a new and emerging specialty, and the clinic will act as a training ground for the next generation of oral health professionals who are interested in geriatric and special needs dentistry. There are plans to train more dentists in this area of specialisation in the coming years.