One-stop dental clinic for seniors, special needs
The clinic sports age-friendly features, an X-ray service and a minor operating theatre.
The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) has officially opened the country’s first one-stop dental clinic offering a comprehensive range of complex oral and dental specialist care for seniors, as well as patients with intellectual and physical disabilities. With a growing ageing population, the Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic (GSDC) already has seen more than 4,000 patients since the start of its operations in September 2015. At full capacity, NDCS expects the clinic to see 12,000 patients annually.
The 10-chair specialist outpatient clinic with a floor area of 400 sqm and a minor operating theatre has a multi-disciplinary team of dental specialists and allied health professionals under one roof to ensure that patients need not make multiple visits to see different specialists. It will also further collaborate with community partners such as the Tanglin-Cairnhill constituency to provide oral hygiene education, screening and care for the elderly and their caregivers. The clinic has already done two dental screenings at the Henderson Community Club in May last year and January this year.
A/Prof Poon Choy Yoke, director of NDCS, said, “Geriatric conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease can affect an individual’s ability to care for their oral hygiene, increasing the risk of periodontal (gum) disease. In addition, their diminished ability to communicate and cooperate with dental professionals can make treatment more difficult. Special needs patients also face similar challenges. Healthcare professionals at the GSDC have been specially-trained to handle such behavioural issues and care for the oral health needs of these patients.”
The clinic combines clinical care in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Restorative Dentistry, with services organised around the needs of seniors and special needs patients. For example, every room is equipped with an intra-oral X-ray machine (a X-ray machine with low levels of radiations that can be placed inside the mouth to capture the interior teeth and gums) so patients need not be transferred to another room or level to get their X-rays done, and treatment time is shortened. General dental radiography and surgical procedures under local anaesthesia can also be done within the clinic.
In addition, dental surgery assistants and patient-service staff are trained to make follow-up calls to patients or caregivers to check if patients are experiencing post-operative pain or drug allergies after their visit. They are also trained to recognise patient’s medical needs for scheduling of appointment times, which will then improve patient’s compliance to treatment.
Caregiver Grace Wong said, “My mum suffers from Parkinson’s disease, so her hands are quite weak and she can’t brush her teeth thoroughly. As a result, she gets frequent toothaches and headaches. After receiving gum treatment, guidance on brushing and getting new dentures made, she no longer gets headaches, is able to chew well and is generally much better.”
Shared Dr Tan Ching Ching, head of GSDC, the clinic also sports age-friendly design features and special equipment designed for bed-bound and wheelchair-bound patients, with spacious walkways to enable these patients and their caregivers to navigate around the clinic with greater comfort.
One key feature is the wheelchair-friendly dental chair, which allows the patient to remain in the wheelchair during dental treatment, eliminating the need to be manually transferred to the dental chair.
The GSDC also features larger waiting areas and dental chairs, as well as handrails, low counters, and large and bright signages. Another highlight is the dedicated vehicle drop-off area in front of the clinic, improving car and ambulance access to the clinic. The clinic entrance is also located within walking distance to the bus stop and the Outram Park MRT Station (North East Line) with wheelchair access.
Research & education capabilities
The GDSC will further boost NDCS’ capabilities by integrating care, research and education to develop innovative models of care for geriatric dentistry. In the research arena, a collaboration with Duke-NUS Medical School is underway to study the oral health of the elderly in Singapore, which has implications for their nutrition and quality of life.
There will also not be only one GDSC in Singapore. A second geriatric and special needs dentistry clinic is being planned for the upcoming Centre for Oral Health at the National University Health System, which is slated to open in 2019.