Many nursing home residents are unable to brush their teeth on their own on a daily basis. This lack of consistent, daily oral hygiene can lead to discomfort and poor oral health if allowed to go unchecked. Families and nursing home attendants need to work together to ensure that loved ones and patients are getting proper dental care.
Consequences of Neglecting Oral Health Care
Without the proper attention to consistent oral health care, many problems can arise. Plaque will build up daily in your parents' mouth and may cause inflammation, tooth decay, or gum disease. This plaque can also cause problems elsewhere in the body, as bacteria in plaque may enter the bloodstream and cause arteries to harden, increase the risk of blood clots, and even compromise blood sugar levels.
Patients with diabetes are also more susceptible to these negative effects of poor dental hygiene. Any of these complications may cause them to have greater trouble in controlling their blood sugar levels. Studies indicate that treating gum disease that is present leads to improved blood sugar levels. An unclean mouth can also lead to your loved one developing pneumonia, a potentially deadly illness at any age.
What Can Families Do?
The first duty of the family, upon admittance of their loved one, is to provide the nursing home facility with important information about their loved one. This information should include:
- whether or not they have dentures or partials
- how often they wear them
- if they are labeled
- the date of the last visit to the dentist
- contact information for that dentist
- any known oral problems
You should also include information about any medications that your loved one may take that could cause dry mouth as a side effect. It's important to also note their preferred brands or types of oral hygiene tools such as toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash.
The staff should also be aware of what kind of help your loved one will require in accomplishing oral hygiene tasks daily and when the best time of the day is to administer these services. If you know your relative can sometimes be reluctant to cooperate, you may also share helpful tips that might make the process easier. Remember, whatever works at home is likely to be valuable information for the nursing home attendants. This information will help nursing home attendants and nurses determine the best plan for your loved one's continuing dental and overall health.
What Can Nurses Do?
Dental care should be administered ideally twice daily, but at a minimum once per day. Attendants should always check with the charge nurse to ensure that toothpaste, mouthwash, and water may be used and that the patient is fit to consume thin liquids. Some conditions or treatments may cause a patient to skip a day. The teeth, gums, and tongue should be brushed gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush, but the patient should never be forced. Dentures and partials should also be cleaned daily.
It is the duty of both families and health care workers to ensure your loved ones get the proper oral health care even after they are unable to see to it themselves. This requires consistency, determination, and an open flow of information between all parties. A visit to a dentist like Pastucka Martin J DDS at least twice a year will also improve oral health.