Visiting the Dentist: A Guide for Older Adults

Daily cleaning and dental check-ups help maintain a healthy mouth. As you get older, you may find that you need to change dentists, or that visiting the dentist gets more complicated.

If you’re an older adult visiting a new dentist for the first time, here are a few things you should expect:

  • Review of past and present medical problems
  • Check-up of the head and neck areas, mouth, and teeth
  • X-rays of the teeth

What should I bring?

  • Medical history form: The dental office may send you a medical history form to complete before the appointment. List any medical issues, past surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, and any drug allergies you may have. If you do not receive a form, you should still be prepared to share this information at the appointment.
  • Medications: Bring a written or printed list of every medication that you’re currently taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as any vitamins or nutrition supplements. The list should include the prescriber and the condition for which you take the medication. Alternatively, you may choose to bring your medications with you for easy reference.
  • Physical Examination Record: Bring a copy of the results of a recent physical examination which you can get directly from your physician.
  • Names and phone numbers: Be ready to provide the names and phone numbers for your doctors and any family members who may be responsible for your healthcare decisions.

How can I prepare?

  • Bring a list of any dental concerns you may have.
  • Schedule your appointment at a time that works best for you. This will help make the visit less stressful.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early to the appointment.
  • If you take medications for anxiety, schedule an appointment time shortly after you normally take that medication. This will help you be more relaxed during the appointment.

If I’m a caregiver for a senior, what else should I know?

  • Make sure you have accurate medical information, especially if the person you’re caring for has memory issues.
  • If the person you care for is in a wheelchair, confirm the dental office is wheelchair accessible before the appointment. You should also offer to help transfer the patient from the wheelchair to the dental chair. If the patient cannot be moved from their wheelchair, try to access a reclining wheelchair with a headrest that can be used during the the dental visit.

About the Author

Kevin T. Hendler, DDS
Fellow, American Society of Geriatric Dentistry (FASGD); Diplomat, American Board of Special Care Dentistry (DABSCD); Past President, Special Care Dentistry Association

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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