Oral and Dental Health

The festive season has been the time to be jolly and have lots of sweet foods and goodies to eat. January is, therefore, a timely month to review our oral and dental health care. It is well-documented that good oral health is essential for general health and wellbeing, and is therefore, essential for healthy ageing. Oral and dental health is important whether people have their own, natural teeth, partial dentures or full dentures. To help the community to improve and maintain oral and dental health, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has provided training in oral and dental health care for registered nurses and other resource materials. Prom Country Aged Care Inc. (PCAC) is committed to ensuring our residents in aged care receive optimal oral and dental health care. To this end the oral and dental health care plans and programs are being revised and enhanced.
 
A part of a healthy oral and dental status is the development of the oral health care plan. People in the general community are advised to develop this in consultation with their Dentist and General practitioner. The plan will incorporate a standard protective oral hygiene regimen, and may involve some changes and treatments.
 
Poor oral health can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life, resulting in some or all of the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums, tooth decay, tooth loss
  • Feelings of lower self-esteem, poor appearance and reduced social interactions
  • Difficulties with speech and swallowing
  • Impairment in the ability to eat certain foods, poor nutritional status
  • Weight loss or gain as a result of not being able to eat the right foods
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Change in behaviour.

 
The impact on general health can include aspiration pneumonia; chronic infection and bacteraemia; cardiovascular disease (heart and circulatory problems); complications with other systems and illness management.
 
There is an oral assessment tool available (from the DoHA website) which covers assessment of natural teeth; dentures (partial and full), lips, tongue, oral cleanliness, gums and oral tissue, saliva, and dental pain. This is a useful tool to assess a person’s baseline oral and dental health status and can be downloaded from the internet and completed at home.
 
Some medications are known to have a “dry mouth” side effect and other side effects, so it is important that medications are addressed when developing an oral and dental health care plan.
 
One useful tip for a healthy mouth is to have toothbrushes colour coded, as they should be changed every three months. Some people change their toothbrushes with the change in season, so may have a yellow one for summer, orange for autumn, blue for winter and green for spring. The colour is not important, it is just an aid in remembering to change the toothbrush four times a year and coinciding with the change in the seasons is a useful prompt.
 
Remember, a healthy mouth will improve overall health and well-being. It will reduce the risk of stroke, help prevent heart disease, avoid pneumonia, prevent tooth decay and reduce gum disease and bad breath.
 
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further discussion about any aspect of residential aged care. As I have said in previous columns, going into aged care residential services is not a death sentence; it is just a change of address. With the Eden Alternative Philosophy it is also a journey of change to resident focussed care, a journey of living and life.