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Bringing Oral Healthcare Closer to the Elderly

​Tooth loss or edentulism is prevalent among older people all over the world. In Singapore, however, a disproportionate number of older people are edentulous. In 2016, a nationally representative study of 5,000 community-dwelling Singaporeans aged 60 and over had the following findings:

  • 31 per cent of subjects were edentulous (no teeth at all)
  • 30 per cent of those who were edentulous did not have dentures
  • Only 9 per cent of those aged 80 and above who had 20 teeth or more

In contrast, 50 per cent of those aged over 80 in Japan have 20 or more natural teeth as a result of the 8020 strategy, which is a concerted national effort to enable elderly Japanese to maintain their natural dentition.

Furthermore, oral health among elderly people who live in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and special facilities such as homes for persons with dementia is generally poor. Residents in long-term care tend to have poorer oral health than their community-dwelling peers. This is due to various factors, including residents' ability to look after their own oral hygiene, the cost of providing in-house oral healthcare, and lack of knowledge and skills among caregiving staff. 

Extensive tooth loss affects one's life. Apart from impeding chewing ability, it influences nutrition. People with tooth loss avoid dietary fibre and prefer foods rich in saturated fats and cholesterols. This puts them at greater risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also hampers communication because teeth are important for speaking clearly, and negatively impacts one's appearance – affecting dignity and self-esteem.

We Want to Ensure that No One is Left Behind

Since 2015, NDCS has been actively organising community outreach and screening programmes to reach elderly people in the community, identify those who need treatment, and provide care and support to enable them to regain their oral health and function. We partne with Health Promotion Board under Temasek's Project Silver Screen, as well as with NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Screening participants who are found to have dental needs are referred to follow up at the CHAS clinics located within 1km of their homes, our partner clinics or at NDCS. However, many of those referred choose not to seek further treatment.

There are several reasons behind failure to attend follow-up treatment after screening. Elderly people who are frail may have trouble moving around on their own and are reliant on caregivers to help them keep appointments. If they are of limited financial means, they may be reluctant to spend money on complex treatment. They may also have multiple medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and be under the mistaken impression that oral health is of less importance than these other aspects of health.

We Can Reach More Elderly Persons with a Mobile Dental Bus

Singapore's silver generation should not have to bear with poor oral health because dental care is beyond them. We can reach more elderly people with a dedicated mobile dental bus.

Our community screening efforts are presently restricted to using mobile dental clinics in schools during school holidays. We also conduct screening in community centres, which involves heavy logistics such as moving equipment, instruments, supplies and consumables. This limits the frequency with which we can hold screenings because we depend on the availability of these locations as well as manpower to set up and conduct the sessions.

A mobile dental bus equipped with a dental chair, sterilisation equipment, and other facilities would be a hygienic and purpose-built environment in which we can conduct dental screening and treatment. It would not only enable us to screen more people at more locations across Singapore, it would offer the option to bring dental treatment to the doorsteps of elderly residents in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.

The bus could potentially reach 30,000 residents aged above 65 years, including over 2,500 nursing home patients within the region served by SingHealth – a significant increase from the current population we are able to reach today. Any resident found to be in need of dental treatment can be treated when the mobile dental bus is stationed near the facility, without having to be transported to a clinic or to NDCS. As our historical data shows that each geriatric patient requires 2.2 dental visits annually, the mobile dental bus would ensure timely and regular access to dental care. 

Help Us Achieve Our Goal

We are seeking support to procure and operate the bus. Your generous gift would enable us to ensure that those in their silver years can continue to enjoy good oral health, which would enhance their overall health and improve their quality of life.

To Make a Gift

Please email us at or call +65 6324 3988.