The Importance of Denture Care in Aged-Care Facilities

Denture Care in Aged Care Facilities

A recent online article by health care academics on The Conversation, reported the shocking state of oral health in aged care facilities with residents having up to three times the risk of untreated tooth decay than people in the wider community.

The authors note this is not something new: “In 2014, complaints to the government’s aged-care complaints scheme led to an industry-wide alert and training on what to do to improve standards.

Why should this be so?

There are many factors involved here. Some which don’t surprise us, others which may not be on our radar. And to be clear, this author is not suggesting the fault lies solely at the feet of hard-working nursing staff. However, the fact remains, the situation is dire and must be addressed.

It is no surprise that many aged-care residents are frail, the very reason after all, that they are in care in the first place. Complex health issues and medications can have side effects like dry mouth, cracked lips or tongue, making chewing and swallowing more difficult, which can compromise oral health if not addressed. High-care needs of the aged are time-consuming in an industry which is notoriously known for being understaffed and under-funded.

Overworked Nursing Staff

Looking after aged folk is not an easy job. Often, it’s the residents who need the most help with oral care, who miss out, despite the best intentions of often overworked staff. Time-consuming patients like those with dementia, aggression or resistant behaviour, or even those who have trouble swallowing, may go without oral care for weeks.

What Is The Solution?

As with any multi-faceted problem, the solution must have an equally multi-pronged approach. The authors of the Conversation article, suggest a collaborative approach to improving oral health in aged care facilities involving all parties concerned working together, including funders, policymakers, aged-care residents, family members, staff and health professionals.

What Can Family Members Do?

Well-fitting dentures contribute to a better quality of life.

Not knowing where to begin or feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of affecting the right kind of change, can often paralyse caregivers and family of residents in aged care. But the authors make the following suggestions:

  1. Advocate for the resident. Good oral care, like teeth brushing, and access to mobile oral health services like dental prosthetists is a basic right. If residents’ rights aren’t being met there are places to go for help. Raise the issue with the manager or contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
  2. Be vigilant at mealtimes. Watching people eat is a good opportunity to pick up any oral health issues they may be having. Smelly breath and difficulty swallowing are signs action is needed. Loose or ill-fitting dentures can result in sore spots and ulcers causing reluctance to eat. Speak to the manager who will assist or direct you to the correct professional who can help.
  3. Ask facility staff about your family member’s oral care routines. Do they align with the facility’s policies and your own expectations of standard of care? Seek dental health care professionals if needed.
  4. Discuss costs with family members. Remind them of how important oral health is to the overall health and well-being of their family member. Making family aware of mobile services like denture professionals can alleviate concerns of transporting frail family members. It may not be as expensive as you think.
  5. Help empower residents. The personal nature of oral care can make residents resentful of handing over such an intimate task to care staff. An occupational therapist can help with sensitive ways to overcome this issue.

Well-fitting dentures not only contribute to a better quality of life, allowing for a better choice of diet, they also affect a person’s appearance giving them the confidence to participate in a social life. Regular visits by a dental prosthetist can also avoid oral health issues from becoming bigger health problems.

Disclaimer – Always consult your oral health professional for expert advice about your unique personal situation. The information given here is of a general nature and for the purpose of education only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your oral health specialist

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