Good oral health needs to be part of our daily routine at all stages of our life: toddler, teenager, adult, senior. For residents in nursing homes, however, oral health can be a significant issue.
by Donalee Moulton
True or false
Q: 13 per cent of people age 45 to 64 never visit a dental professional or see one only for emergencies. This figure is slightly higher for those living in long-term care.
A: False. The figure is actually much higher. According to research conducted by Debora Matthews at Dalhousie University, 73 per cent of those living in long-term care never visit a dental professional or see one only for emergencies.
Q: Dentures should be removed at night.
A: True. A condition called denture stomatitis, small red lesions usually found under the top denture, is one reason dentures should be removed every night.
Q: Oral conditions have widespread effects on both the physical and mental health of nursing home residents.
A: True. A study led by Matthias Hoben at the University of Alberta noted that social impacts, such as low self-esteem associated with bad breath or missing and decayed teeth, are prevalent in older adults with poor oral hygiene. The study also pointed out that, “Preventable suffering as a result of oral/dental pain can be seen in 3.4-8 per cent of nursing home residents.”
Photo credit: Bigstock /Srdjanns74
Fill in the blank
Q: Approximately 19 per cent of Nova Scotians age 45 and over living in the community have untreated tooth decay compared with what per cent of long-term care residents.
A: 35 per cent.
Q: Can you name two reasons why there are higher risk factors associated with individuals in long-term care?
A: There are often issues, such as dementia or decreased mobility, that make it difficult for residents to have optimal oral health care. It may also be difficult for residents to get to the dentist.
Q: Dentures are made of what?
A: Acrylic. According to Brushing Up on Mouth Care, an oral health resource for those caring for older adults, acrylic is a porous material that can be easily scratched and damaged. The material also does not have any germ-fighting properties and bacteria can grow on the surface of the denture and cause odour, sores and irritations.