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Behind The Scenes: The Nursing Home’s Take On Oral Care

We have previously discussed issues surrounding nursing homes and dental care. For those who are interested in taking a behind-the-scenes glimpse into these problems, read The Problems Of Dental Health In Nursing Homes And Why We Need To Fix It.

While there is great insight that can be gleaned from taking a look inside the walls of what goes on with residents and the care that is provided to them, it could prove advantageous to also hear about oral care straight from the nurses, nursing assistants, and other nursing home staff.

Hearing how some nurses view oral care as it applies to their residents is disparaging, especially when there are actionable steps that can work to reverse these issues. If oral care doesn’t start taking precedence over other tasks, nursing homes will continue to do their residents a major injustice – one that could cause their quality of life to suffer and take years off of their lives.

How Nursing Home Staff View Oral Care

Nurses and nursing assistants understand the value and importance of oral care – to a degree. But there is a lack of education on exactly how detrimental poor oral hygiene can be to a resident’s whole-body health. All nurses are required to obtain certification in order to work with these individuals, but only 14 percent have ever received more than an hour-long lecture about oral health.

The lower the educational level of the nurse, the less attention they pay to a person’s mouth, teeth, and gums. A number of caregivers were asked a few questions concerning oral health and these were the findings:

  • Less than half of all staff thought that dental professionals should be involved in a resident’s oral care at all.

  • 39 percent of caregivers only check a resident’s mouth when serious symptoms present themselves.

  • 22 percent of nursing home staff believed that oral care wasn’t even a part of their job description.

There is also just a general lack of understanding on what even qualifies as good oral care. Years ago, residents were situated into their new “home” and either already had dentures or had no teeth at all. Cleaning dentures only required water and a scrubbing brush – that was it.

Now, residents are coming into a facility with at least some of their original teeth. Caring for original teeth demands more than just water and a brush. It requires frequent brushing, flossing, and bi-annual appointments with a dentist. But since most caregivers don’t have access to the intricacies of geriatric dental care, they only do the minimum amount of care, if they even do that.

Other caregivers view oral care as a burden because working in geriatric dentistry presents significantly more challenges than working with younger adults. Many staff members are fearful of performing routine cleanings because there is always a likelihood that residents could become irate and lash out, like biting, spitting, or hitting staff. Seeing as nursing home staff have more than just one resident they are responsible for, this anxiety grows tenfold.

A higher number of residents also means a more sizable list of tasks that need to be completed daily. All aspects of personal hygiene are a caregiver’s responsibility – bathing, feeding, bathroom duties, diaper changing, styling hair, and dressing wounds. In addition to that, they are physically assisting residents to and from the bathroom, in and out of their wheelchairs, and constantly repositioning them on their beds so they don’t get bed sores.

All of this work is taxing, especially because many nursing homes are understaffed, lending no support for nurses and nursing assistants when they are exhausted. Pressing resident demands, long working hours, and a lack of support puts caregivers into a troublesome situation.

There are perhaps staff members who voluntarily choose to nix oral care because it decreases the possibility of any altercations and also shortens their to-do lists throughout the day. This is a serious issue that needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. However, nursing home staff are not always responsible for their lack of care. They don’t understand its role within their job description, they are baffled as to how to handle irate residents who refuse care, or they just don’t have the proper education and tools available to them in order to have any significant impact on someone with severe dental issues.

65 percent of the caregivers that were surveyed about oral care’s place in a nursing home reported that proper oral care should be handled by an actual dental professional – one that can offer mobile treatment.

It is evident that nursing home’s have a long path ahead of them, but forging that path is how they will be able to truly provide greater care to their residents, which should be every nursing home’s mission. The problem is that many nursing homes don’t realize that there are dental professionals who actually offer these services and are available to enter into the facility and provide care.

Onsite Dentists Of Texas has built an entire practice with this mentality in mind. We have all of the equipment that a traditional dentist’s office would have, but, unlike other practices, we are able to transport it directly to our clients. We collaborate with nursing homes in the Greater Dallas Area in order to make our services available to all residents. We also offer complimentary dental assessments and oral cancer screenings when no one else will because it’s in the best interest of our patients.

Not only does this decrease the work expected of nursing home staff – a service they are not even qualified to give in the first place – it also improves the quality of life of the seniors within the facility. Not only does it make them look and feel better, it reduces any pain they have resulting from poor oral hygiene. But the most important thing is that it can quite literally add years to their life.

Get in touch with our team of dentists today to learn more about our services and how we can help your loved one!

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