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Stress and coping experienced by older adults challenged by dental implant self-care Dubé, Jessica E.

Abstract

Objective: The provision of dental implants to replace missing teeth for older adults is increasing and we know dental implant prostheses involve substantial challenges with long-term maintenance. This study aimed to explore older adult perceptions of such challenges in the light of literature on stress and coping and the common disabilities associated with aging. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six elderly adults over the age of 70 to explore the long-term challenges they experienced with dental implant maintenance. Each participant presented with an oral prosthesis supported by a minimum of five dental implants placed more than 5 years prior. Emerging themes were identified in verbatim transcripts of the audio-taped interviews, and theoretical constructs were used to develop a classification of the physical challenges, emotional responses and coping strategies used by older adults in the self-care of dental implants. Findings: Overall functional and psychosocial experiences with the prosthetic rehabilitation were positive. Initially participants also perceived challenges on a physical level such as difficulty in accessing compromised areas to clean their dental implant prostheses or accessing professional care to manage urgent problems with the prostheses while traveling abroad. However, further scrutiny of these challenges identified psychological and social responses that sometimes included feelings of embarrassment, frustration, disappointment and disillusionment. In response, the participant’s appeared to utilize various management or coping strategies, including avoidance, disengagement, intellectualization and rationalization. Conclusion: This investigation suggests that psychosocial responses of patients to the long-term challenges posed by oral prostheses can evoke variable coping strategies that have been observed in response to other chronic health conditions, and that recognition of the emotional responses and associated coping strategies may inform both the clinical practice of dentistry and researchers interested in further understanding the response of older adults to prosthetic biotechnology. Further exploration of management or coping strategies may reveal new insights for patients, practitioners and researchers to better understand the subjective challenges experienced by the aging elderly dental implant patient.

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