• One-stop specialty dental clinic with full range of oral health services for geriatric and special needs patients

Singapore, 21 June 2016 - The Geriatric Special Care Dentistry Clinic (GSDC) at National Dental Centre Singapore was officially opened by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health today.

The 10-chair specialist outpatient clinic, with a floor area of 400sqm and a minor operating theatre, is the first one-stop specialty clinic in Singapore to deliver integrated oral care for patients with complex medical needs, geriatric conditions, as well as intellectual and physical disabilities. The multidisciplinary team of dental specialists and allied health professionals under one roof ensures that patients need not make multiple visits to see different specialists.

Expanding oral care delivery for the nation’s needs
Today, one in eight Singaporeans is aged 65 and above. By 2030, this figure is expected to double¹.  As the population ages and life expectancy increases, there is a need for holistic management of elderly patients. The Clinic will facilitate collaboration with intermediate and long term care partners in the care of these patients.

A/Prof Poon Choy Yoke, Director of National Dental Centre Singapore 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 co-operate 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 one-stop clinic combines clinical care in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Restorative Dentistry, with services organised around the needs of elderly and special needs patients.

For example, every room will be 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). Therefore, 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 patients' medical needs for scheduling of appointment times. This will improve the patient’s compliance to treatment.

Caregiver Ms 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.”

Mr Kiran Raj S/O S Vanu, 21, is a special needs patient with poor motor skills and Global Developmental Delay due to epilepsy. His mum, Mdm Jothi Marimutha said, “He had poor oral hygiene but I was hesitant to bring him to a dentist. I was worried that he would act up during dental treatment, but with the expert management of the dental specialists here, Kiran feels at ease and does not misbehave. Even if he does, the specialists here are patient and know how to interact with him to make him listen.”

Age-friendly design 
“The GSDC has age-friendly design features and special equipment designed for bed-bound and wheelchair-bound patients. Spacious walkways enable these patients and their caregivers to navigate around the clinic with greater comfort,” said Dr Tan Ching Ching, Head, GSDC.

One key feature is the wheelchair-friendly dental chair – it 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, an X-ray service and a minor operating theatre. Age-friendly features such as handrails, low counters and large and bright signages assist with better way finding. 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 wheel chair access.

Research and 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.

Demand for the Clinic’s services has been steadily growing. Since the start of operations in late 2015, GSDC has already seen more than 4,000 patient attendances. At full capacity, NDCS expects to see 12,000 patient attendances annually at the clinic.