I am where I am today because I have always wanted to do more for seniors. Many years ago, I remember putting on my scrubs and dragging my equipment into a nursing home facility thinking “there has got to be more.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a geriatric dental hygienist. Even when I wasn’t known all over the world, I have always loved serving seniors. But, I had this longing deep inside of me to do greater things and impact more people for the better.
I knew that I would be limited if I didn’t take the leap and go “rogue”. So, I did and I haven’t looked back since. I swam through shark-infested waters to become an oral care educator.
Now, I promote the importance of oral care for seniors by communicating and educating the community. I also offer oral care training to residents, their family members, and staff in nursing homes.
My journey to becoming the Geriatric Tooth Fairy was tough, but I made it and it is better than I ever imagined and I have no regrets about doing this work.
With this in mind, let’s talk about today’s blog topic: What are the benefits of raising awareness about the oral care plight of seniors?
Creates Awareness in Long-term Care Facilities
Offering training in long-term care facilities transfers oral care knowledge to the staff, mostly certified nursing assistants (CNAs), who take care of seniors.
Studies show that a majority of staff in these facilities lack adequate training in oral care procedures, such as brushing, flossing, and cleaning dentures.
Training caregivers on these oral care procedures has helped build their competence and confidence to offer better oral care to the seniors.
This has prevented the premature death of seniors, most of whom die from systemic diseases that are directly linked to oral care. These diseases include aspiration pneumonia, heart disease, cancer, urinary tract infection, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Increases Awareness in the Community
A significant barrier to oral healthcare for seniors is the underestimation of the oral care that they need.
Members of the community, including dental professionals, academics, and policymakers, need to raise awareness about the need for equity in the provision of oral health.
It is for this very reason that I offer training and give talks all over the world. Some of the issues that I talk about in these discussions include, the importance of proper daily and professional care for seniors and the need for funding resources of oral healthcare programs for seniors.
I communicate these messages in nursing homes, social media, the mass media, and a book that I have written.
Members of the community can spread this knowledge using different channels, including direct communication during office visits, written messages, seminars, and the mass media.
Build Capacity of Residents and Staff
To improve the health of seniors, it is also important to educate residents and staff to help build their capacity and confidence to offer better oral care to elders.
In addition, members of the community need to raise awareness about the impact of aging on oral health, the need for daily and professional oral care for seniors, and the need for resources. Raising awareness and providing oral healthcare will help improve the oral care of seniors.
Invite me to talk about different topics, such as establishing a successful mobile clinic, treating patients equally, addressing oral health care needs for seniors, mental dental health, among others.