The Need to Create a Long-term Dental Plan

We frequently learn of our patient’s plan to retire during their preventive care visits. This conversation provides us the opportunity to begin a dialogue about the patient’s long-term oral health goals.

Creating a long-term oral health care plan will reduce the incidence of dental emergencies that may appear at inopportune times as a patient ages. Finances, past experiences, inconvenience and the relationship with their dental practitioners have the potential to influence their dental goals.2

The common focus patients have about dentistry, as finances become limited, is to treat issues as they arise. Studies show 28.4% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 carry dental insurance coverage; of those aged 75 and older, only 16.5% remain covered by a dental benefit plan due to the loss of an employer-sponsored dental plan.4 Preventing and planning for a patient’s needs earlier will allow them to take advantage of the dental benefits they currently receive and help them decide what procedures to pursue while they are still financially able.

Anxiety about future treatments can be eased with empathy, friendliness and pain reduction. The communication patients have with their oral health providers and physicians can prepare them to make future dental decisions. Involving the patient in the decision making process will forge a positive relationship with the oral care provider.

Inviting a patient to schedule a comprehensive oral healthcare long-term treatment planning appointment will allow the dental staff the time to assess the patient’s current medical condition and oral health status. Such an appointment will enable identification of the patient’s individual needs; thus, resulting in the development of a patient-specific long-term care plan that includes targeted oral hygiene, dental hygiene and dental treatment plans. A patient’s motivation to accept care can be influenced by the support the patient perceives from their oral health professionals.5