Nursing home dentistry

Caring for the oral health of nursing home residents is an important part of what we do at Power Dental.

Byline: Dr David Power

Oral health care and education in nursing homes is very important to me, and I’ve always had an affinity for it. My own Mum is in a nursing home, so I see what is happening. Elderly patients are frequently unable to help themselves, and I feel we’ve got a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves.

For nursing home dentistry we primarily aim our education at the staff. We go to systematically promote oral health to all the nursing homes in our area.

What we do is approach a nursing home and ask them, ‘would you like some free dental education?’ We explain to them the problem generally is that the worse the elderly patient’s general health is, the less they can clean their own teeth and the worse their mouths become. Our aim is to communicate the importance of good oral health care.

Commonly nursing home patients have a dry mouth, so they tend to be more susceptible to decay and are less able to clean their own teeth. As a result, they are more reliant upon the staff to do it for them. Unfortunately, the staff may not be educated in oral health, or even know how to take care of their own oral health. Because they don’t know how to do their own, they then don’t know how to do anyone else’s, so it can be a vicious cycle.

When we go out to a nursing home, we give a PowerPoint presentation to staff dealing with the causes of decay, the causes of gum disease, and what are the main problems facing their patients. We explain that to decrease decay you need to clean the teeth, then show them how to effectively clean. We also conduct a live demonstration—we use a dye to highlight the plaque, the areas that need attention, and show the nursing staff how to brush their teeth.

We reiterate to the nursing home staff that it is important, even if they’ve never been told they should brush the patient’s teeth or that they think ‘it’s not that important’ or ‘I’m really busy today, I’ll just skip it’.

The number of people going into care is increasing so this is a major issue I am passionate about. If you are reading this blog post and have family members in a nursing home, I would like to add we do general treatment which includes cleaning and preventive treatment, denture work, extractions and fillings at various locations, and if it’s more complicated we can bring them to us and we have of course got wheelchair access in our building.