Susan Young is clearly conflicted about moving to a beach in Mexico to retire. Who wouldn’t be, when there are still seniors who aren’t getting access to great dental care? Perhaps that wouldn’t keep most of people away from the beach, but Susan is passionate about seniors’ teeth. She dreams of a day when every person living in long term care will have great oral health.
After 30 years working as a dental hygienist in a family practice, Susan branched out into her own business to offer dental care for seniors living in care facilities. She was inspired by Dr. Leann Donnelly, a UBC professor in the faculty of dentistry, who told her that many seniors find it impossible to get to their dentist’s office for checkups and treatment. Mobility challenges and the emotional complexities of dementia make a trip to the dentist just too difficult to navigate.
Three Links is one of the care centres that has benefitted from Susan’s mobile services, which go beyond dental house calls – her empathy for seniors helps to overcome all sorts of barriers to care that come with aging. She understands that the sounds, smells, and intrusion of personal space that are involved with an oral exam can be confusing or frightening for a person with dementia. “People with dementia are wonderful souls who require more attention to tap into what they cannot easily express,” says Susan, “When you apply all of your clinical skills and add in extreme kindness you will have a positive experience with your very special client.”
Susan has seen a glimpse of the future at Three Links: “There are people at Three Links who have beautiful teeth at the age of 100. I would like that for everyone.” In addition to beautiful smiles, good dental care can reduce the risks of many health problems, including diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. Susan remembers treating a woman with diabetes: “The nurses were struggling to get her blood sugar levels stabilized. Once I had improved her oral health, the nurses came to me and said “her blood sugar is finally down!”
Seniors health is a collaborative job, and Susan has been delighted to see care aides, nurses, and doctors embracing dental care as an important part of wellness.
Now that Susan is retiring, Leah Thomson will be Three Links’ new dental hygienist, taking over assessments, cleaning, treatment plans, and dentist and doctor referrals for our residents. Like Susan, Leah was inspired by a mentor to start her own business providing mobile dental care for seniors. She loves the opportunity to connect with seniors and get to know exactly what each person needs to feel comfortable. She’s especially excited about a brand new treatment that will allow her to stop dental decay in its tracks without any freezing, drilling, or filling.
Families who would like their loved one to access dental care should get in touch with Alona at the front desk, by phone at 605.434.7211, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish Susan lots of joy and relaxation in her retirement. And if she ever gets tired of relaxing, we know there’s no shortage of people who would appreciate the opportunity to receive a bit more of her thorough and compassionate dental care.