Dental treatment intensity in frail older adults in the last year of life

Xi Chen, Hong Chen, Christian Douglas, John S. Preisser, Stephen K. Shuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Palliative care focusing on pain and infection is recommended for patients who are terminally ill. It is difficult to implement this strategy in practice because of the lack of clear guidelines. The authors conducted a study to examine dental treatment provided to a group of long-term care (LTC) residents in the last year of life. Methods: The authors retrospectively followed 197 LTC residents (60 years or older) in the last year of life to death. On the basis of the dental services patients received between the new patient examination and death, the authors categorized the patients into three groups: no care (NC), limited care (LC) and usual care (UC). The authors developed a multivariable continuation ratio logit model with shared regression coefficients across two logits to identify the factors associated with the end-of-life dental care pattern. Results: The authors found that 50.8 percent of the patients received NC before death. Among those who received treatment, 62.9 percent received UC, and 60.7 percent of the patients in the UC group had completed their treatment in the last three months of life. A three-month increment in survival and having dental insurance resulted in 1.74 (95 percent confidence interval [Cl], 1.32-2.30) and 2.59 (95 percent Cl, 1.03-6.52) times greater odds, respectively, of receiving some dental treatment before death. Neither survival nor dental insurance, however, was associated with dental care intensity in the last year of life (that is, UC versus LC). Conclusions: While most of the patients who were in the last year of life received insufficient dental care, comprehensive treatment was provided commonly to frail patients at the end of life, raising questions about quality of care. Practical Implications. Palliative oral health management needs to be revisited to improve quality of care for frail older adults at the end of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1242
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Geriatrics
  • Longterm care
  • Oral health
  • Palliative dentistry
  • Terminal illness


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