Talking Teeth and Seniors

A trip to the dentist isn't necessarily top on the list of enjoyable things to do for most people.

For seniors it can be even less so. Multiple medications, chronic disease, physical decline, and money all make dental treatment challenging. Lee Ward says she started having problems with her teeth about ten years ago.

"At seventy some years old, I just quit everything. Anything social I didn't go to."

Lee found help here at the HAWC Clinic on wells avenue. With the help of grant money and a knowledgeable staff, she is currently getting the treatment she needs. But that's not common. Which is why more than two hundred professionals are in Reno to learn more about the challenges of treating the senior dental patient.

Some might think the best solution is to just pull the teeth. That may have been the case 50 years ago, according to dentists here, because of nutrition, pain, and cosmetics that's not an option.

"Assumed that when they are 80 that they don't care. And that's not true. They want to have a social life and smile and feel good about themselves" says dental director of the HAWC Clinic Debra Markoff D.D.S.

And while organizers hope those who come away from the conference have a better understanding of what to look for an how to respond to the dental needs of seniors. One dentist here hopes they don't forget about the person behind those pearly whites.

Steve Shuman D.D.S from the University of Minnesota Dental School taught at the two day seminar.

"Not only do we want to rejoin the mouth to the rest of the body for overall health care. But we want to make sure dental professionals are part of the health care team."