I have been trying to get my mom to see a prosthodontist I believe, for about 2 years now. She’s almost 70 and her teeth are shot. She only sees a dentist when something hurts, and then she asks to have the tooth pulled. Her dentist is telling her that she needs to have a full exam done and so he can have a treatment plan. That probably means all her teeth have to go, but she says she will only do it under full hospital anesthesia, which we can’t afford and isn’t covered by insurance. From what I understand, she will need a full set of dentures, which I believe is best to have done by a prosthodontist. She might not even have to be hospitalized for that. I’m at a point where her constant surprise toothaches are causing me to miss work or sleep. I’m sure it’s causing her a lot of anxiety too. I’m not sure what to do about this tooth-at-a-time issue with her. I’m all out of ideas. What can I do?
You’re on the right track. A little more detail about how a prosthodontist can help make another conversation with your mom more convincing.
What Does a Prosthodontist Do?
Prosthodontists have specialized training replacing missing teeth. They have more in-depth training on the mechanics of the mouth, how biting forces work, and how to create a good bite by using various forms of tooth replacement. In some cases, this includes dentures or partials, but other times it might be something like a bridge or dental implant. In other words, whether you’re missing one tooth or all of them, the prosthodontist is the dentist to see. Yes, a general dentist can do the same procedures, but his or her expertise is obviously generalized, so you can benefit from the additional training and education of a specialist.
How to Encourage the Elderly to See a Dentist
Respect Autonomy: Your mom gets the final say in this, and it’s important that she understands the final decision is hers. Oftentimes, people of all ages will rebel by rejecting an idea when they feel like it’s the only control they have.
Provide Information: Keep giving your mom the tools she needs to make an educated decision. Keeping natural teeth is important. It helps with eating, talking, and maintaining the shape of her jaw. When teeth are lost, there is nothing that can be a true replacement, though dental implants are the closest thing to a natural tooth.
At the same time, having bad teeth isn’t a good solution. Keeping damaged and decayed teeth is painful. She isn’t living life to its fullest. She likely has trouble eating, too. Also, the bacteria associated with tooth decay and periodontal disease is linked to poor heart health, diabetes, and other conditions. If her teeth need to be removed or repaired, she’s putting her overall health at risk by not getting help.
Implant-supported dentures might be an option to stabilize dentures and make them look and feel like natural teeth.
Understand Logic: Perhaps your mom has dental anxiety. That would make sense if she’s requesting full anesthesia. If so, she may be comfortable with in-office methods of relaxation, such as medications or nitrous. If you ask her probing questions, you may find an easy solution to the underlying problems.
Take Small Steps: Schedule a consultation with a prosthodontist. Let her know that the first visit is only to get a diagnosis. She doesn’t have to agree to any treatment that day, nor is she committed to going back. The visit is only to let her meet the dentist and find out her options. At this point, we don’t even know if she needs full dentures. She may be able to save some of her teeth if she gets prompt treatment. It’s also wise to give the dentist some background when you call to schedule. That way, they can be sure to address your mom’s concerns while she’s there. It will help her feel more in control of the situation and they can also take steps to keep her comfortable and relaxed.
This post is sponsored by Naperville board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.