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    The top 5 geriatric product trends

    As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, it's important for hygienists to understand their role as caregivers.

    “My grandmother and I were very close. It broke my heart the day I helped her move into a nursing home, but between her congestive heart failure, severe insulin-dependent diabetes and handicap from losing her leg to diabetic complications, her health conditions required her to have around-the-clock care. I could never get her to stop her smoking habit, though…”

    I listened in awe as Sonya Dunbar, RDH, shared her freshly vibrant story of how she discovered her passion for gerodontics.

    Geriatric dental products“My grandmother refused to let the nursing home staff clean her mouth because she knew I would visit her every day and clean her mouth. She liked having that attention from me. In the end, that’s all that most elderly people want: attention from their loved ones.”

    Sonya lets in a deep breath as she relives her early moments in her career as a geriatric dental hygienist.

    “Once I started cleaning my grandmother’s teeth, her roommate wanted her teeth cleaned. I slowly began cleaning everyone’s teeth in my grandmother’s hall, then in the next hall over. I had spent hundreds of dollars at the Dollar Tree on toothbrushes and had a line of wheelchairs around the corner to see me. I soon realized that I was so engrossed in what I was doing, I hadn’t seen my grandmother in a while.

    More from the author: A day in the life of a dental hygienist

    “Turns out, she was offering up her granddaughter’s dental cleaning services in exchange for cigarettes,” Sonya laughs. “Grandma was sitting out in the courtyard enjoying her afternoon smoke while pimping me out to everyone in her assisted living home!”

    We enjoy a casual conversation as Sonya shared that shortly thereafter, she lost her beloved grandmother. Nevertheless, she continued visiting the assisted living home where her grandmother had lived to be able to provide continued dental care to the residents of the home.

    She pauses.

    “Katrina, have you ever looked death in the face before?”

    I remained silent.

    Sonya recounts a beautifully touching story about how she experienced the peace of being present as one of her favorite residents passed away while in her mobile dental chair during her cleaning. No, this patient didn’t forget to take her premedication. She wasn’t overdosed on anesthetic or not cleared for dental care. She simply was “graduating.” Sonya has beautifully featured this and many other touching stories in her published book “Golden Nuggets of Life,” which recounts her experiences as the “geriatric tooth fairy.”

    Of note, Sonya has created a flourishing career with her mobile dental company, which provides dental cleanings, extractions and denture services to the elderly in assisted living facilities. She also provides trainings to the nursing staff on proper oral care. She shares a wildly passionate and optimistic vision for optimal dental care for the elderly population, and this vision is continuing to drive her forward in her mission.

    As we continued to revel in each other’s’ passions for dental hygiene, we also enjoyed some “shop talk.” Sonya shared ideas about the concerns with geriatric patient populations who present with unique challenges and special care needs. Of note, geriatric patients present with increased risk of xerostomia due to medications, systemic conditions such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, diabetes, digestive problems and liver disfunction, oral habits such as mouth breathing and dehydration, and reduced salivary gland function due to radiation therapies, to name a few.

    As the Baby Boomer generation enters retirement and begins to age, our industry has grown in the products that are available to support dental professionals in the management of the dental needs of our geriatric patients. The following are a few of my favorite products.

    Click through the slides to see the products.


    Katrina M. Sanders RDH, BSDH, M.Ed, RF
    Katrina M Sanders RDH, BSDH, M.Ed, RF, is a graduate and recipient of countless awards from the University of Minnesota’s School of ...


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