Nursing home oral health care matters
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Elderly people who live in
nursing homes are at greater risk for oral health problems compared
with elderly people who live independently, according to a study
published in the July-August 2002 issue of General Dentistry, the
clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Thanks in part to widespread fluoridation, more people than ever
before are keeping their teeth throughout their lives. But as people
age, medical complications and other factors can negatively affect
oral health. Evidence shows that older Americans are at risk for
greater oral health problems than other groups because of age and
the inability to get to a dentist's office due to an existing
medical condition or lack of transportation.
"Oral health of frail
elders residing in long-term care facilities is very poor, probably
because access to dental services is limited," says Francesco
Chiappelli, Ph.D., co-author of the study. "Most of the care at
nursing homes is medical care and nursing care, and sometimes the
oral health needs are overlooked."
Children or other relatives should take an active role in the
oral health needs of elderly people residing in nursing homes.
"Assisting with brushing, flossing and looking around the mouth
for canker sores and abscesses can help ensure an elderly relative
maintains their oral health, which in turn helps maintains one's
overall health. All oral health problems should be reported to the
nursing staff for proper diagnosis and treatment," says Chiappelli.
According to the report, greater awareness among health care
providers and caregivers can do much to ensure the elderly receive
good oral health care, primarily through assessments of the
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Before choosing a nursing home for an
elderly person, relatives and loved ones should inquire about the
quality and consistency of dental care at the facility, according to
Trey L. Petty, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., of the Academy of General
Dentistry. Important questions include:
Does the home have
Is nursing home
staff trained in basic mouth care?
Is the staff
trained to recognize oral problems?
Does the nursing home staff emphasize
mouth care at least once a day?
"If the staff or home administrator can't say 'yes' to each of
these questions, then a red flag should go up," he says.
Reviewed: January 2012 by the Academy of General Dentistry
[Text from file received from the
Illinois Academy of General Dentistry]