The efforts of a University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) dental hygiene student could help thousands of elderly Marylanders improve their oral health. Nancy Stannert, RDH, is producing a DVD training program that teaches nursing assistants who work in long-term care facilities how to provide oral care for residents. The Frederick County Health Department plans to distribute Stannert's training DVD to all the long-term care facilities in the county.
In many long-term care facilities, nursing assistants provide oral hygiene services for residents, including tooth brushing, flossing and denture cleaning, Stannert says. She studied oral health care in nursing homes as part of her coursework in the UMSOD Dental Hygiene Degree completion program, which enables hygienists who possess associate degrees to complete additional training and earn bachelor's degrees.
Stannert’s DVD features a series of how-to videos filmed at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, MD. The videos demonstrate proper oral hygiene techniques and highlight warning signs that indicate oral health problems. "An 80-year-old mouth is different than a 30-year-old mouth,” she says. “These nursing assistants need a better understanding of what is normal for elderly patients, and what is not normal."
For example, many elderly patients suffer from dry mouth, a common side effect of many medications. Dry mouth can lead to the development of cavities and gum disease. "In many ways, the health of these residents depends on their oral health," she says. "There is a huge correlation between the mouth and the rest of the body." Stannert is hopeful that dental hygienists in other states will use her project as a model for their own educational programs.