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Keywords:

  • treatment demand;
  • utilisation;
  • dental care;
  • palliative care;
  • long-term care

Objectives:  Dental care plays an important role in the multidisciplinary approach, which is used in palliative and long-term care to address the complex needs of terminally ill patients. The aim of this study was to assess the utilisation of dental services in a University Hospital Palliative and Long-term Care Unit.

Material and method:  Over an observation period of 13 months, structured questionnaires were filled in after each dental appointment. The survey covered three main topics: the initiation and incentive from the dental consultation, particular difficulties because of the patient’s health or the hospital’s organisation as well as the accomplished treatment.

Results:  Two hundred and seventy-five questionnaires from a total of 102 patients were available for analysis. The patients’ median age was 83 years (SD 10.3, range 49–101 years), 63 were female, 39 male. A majority of first appointments were initiated by a physician (n = 49 of 102), mainly because of pain (n = 62 of 275). 10.5% of the appointments were cancelled on the same day. Only one-fifth of the patients were able to reach the practice on foot. Six used a walking stick and 54 relied on a wheelchair. Eighteen patients needed to be seen in their bed. The most frequently performed procedures were extractions and removal of denture sore spots (n = 67 of 275) followed by the manufacturing of new dentures (n = 38 of 275). In more than 17% of the appointments, no particular treatment was performed.

Conclusion:  The utilisation of dental services in terminally ill and severely compromised elderly patients shown justifies a dental service in a palliative care or geriatric hospital setting. The particular dental work profile requires a practitioner with empathy and professional experience.