Oral Health in Aged Care
Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo APAC
Oral health is fundamental to overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. This is especially the case for older adults that rely on socialisation and interaction as a key part of their lifestyle.
A healthy mouth enables people to eat, speak and socialise without pain, discomfort or embarrassment, and can help to prevent many health complications, including infection.
Understanding potential oral hygiene issues
Most people employed in aged care have no formal training or particular expertise in oral care. Those in day to day contact with clients, patients and residents need to be aware of potential oral hygiene issues. Of course, we all know how to take care of our own oral health, but everyone’s mouth is different, and requires different approaches to oral care.
Staff, and carers in particular, will benefit from understanding the importance of oral care and oral hygiene, and what it means for those in their care if this deteriorates.
Upskilling staff is fundamental
Identifying oral hygiene and oral health issues early allows more effective intervention, and prevention of further issues. Equipping staff with the knowledge to be able to undertake basic oral health assessments will identify issues early.
Oral health care plans can be implemented to successfully manage a good level of oral hygiene and oral health. Dental referrals can be made if issues are known, but if not regularly monitored as part of a regular routine, oral concerns are likely to go unnoticed - and untreated.
Providing the right assistance for cleaning natural teeth is essential for maintaining oral health
As oral health care and related services have improved over the years, so has the number of older Australians retaining their natural teeth. It is therefore vital in the later stages of life, when patients are residing in an aged care facility that they are supported to maintain their oral health. A transition to dentures or false teeth when an individual is in the later stages of their life can be extremely difficult and would be an unnecessary burden on those involved.
Proper brushing and oral care procedures will ensure natural teeth and oral health is maintained, and this will help to reduce tooth decay and prevent uncomfortable mouth ulcers. Maintaining a healthy mouth makes eating easier, positively impacting on the nutritional status of older Australians, promoting a healthy appetite for ongoing strength and energy and makes for easier socialisation and interaction with others.
Dentures require the same level of care as natural teeth
Not all older Australians are fortunate enough to have retained their natural teeth. It may come as a surprise that oral care is just as important for those utilising dentures as it is for those retaining natural teeth. Dentures provide the same functions as natural teeth and are used to make the process of eating possible, while maintaining facial structure and appearance. It is essential that appropriate care be taken with both the dentures themselves, and the mouth of the denture wearer. Maintaining a healthy mouth makes wearing dentures easier and less painful, in turn making eating and speaking easier, and allowing for more meaningful interaction with others in the community.
Key challenges around oral care
Poor oral health negatively impacts older Australians in Aged Care. Those that are affected and experience discomfort and pain are more likely to eat less and this puts them at risk of malnutrition and associated health conditions. Furthermore, older Australians rely on personal interaction and socialisation to maintain wellbeing. Poor oral health can make interactions and socialisation difficult, and extensive tooth loss will alter the facial appearances causing self consciousness, difficulties with speech, which may result in embarrassment and the person becoming withdrawn and isolated.
Kineo has partnered with UniSA to create a new elearning course ‘Oral Care in Aged Care’ that provides learners with valuable knowledge and insight to positively address the oral care needs of aged care residents. Oral care in Aged Care is a key aspect of our older community and we have a duty of care to retain the quality of life of our elderly in aged care, this can be achieved easily with the right skills.
This course is available from Kineo’s course library. If you have any queries relating to the online distance learning Oral Care in Aged Care course, or other related Aged Care specialist courses, we’re here to help.