Webinar Turns Education into Oral Health Success
Oral disease is not a normal part of aging, and Leonard Brennan, DMD, wants everyone on the post-acute/long-term care (PA/LTC) interdisciplinary team to know this. “We need to find a way to triage it and work as an educated team to address oral health in this setting.” Dr. Brennan presented a live Society webinar on “Oral Health Care in Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Settings—Education to Create Motivation,” in October, and the recording is now available.
Dr. Brennan presented a clear overview of the obstacles and solutions to improve oral health in PA/LTC from prevention to treatment, with an emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach to care. The session clearly defined the oral health care problems facing elders and offers concrete suggestions for providing improved treatment, function, esthetics, comfort, and restoration of dignity to the most frail and vulnerable.
“I’ve been teaching and practicing for 35 years, and I’m a firm believer that the way you can create a sustained culture is through education—an interprofessional program where everyone is involved, from administrators to patients and caregivers. If you just focus on the patient, you don’t get the type of behavior change you need. You need a team approach,” says Dr. Brennan. “If you want to change the face of oral care, there has to be a culture change.” He stressed that the administration needs to believe in the ability to accomplish change without increasing burdens on staff.
In the recording, Dr. Brennan talks about the MOTIVATE project, an innovative new oral health program that includes in-person sessions and online modules on:
- Oral Health Leads to Total Health: Foundations of Oral Health Care
- Tools of the Trade: Steps in Providing Oral Health Care
- When to Wait and When to Worry: Warning Signs of Oral Health Problems
- What To Do When a Resident Has Trouble with Oral Health Care: Working Together with Residents and Families
Even well-meaning teams are ineffective without training and education. Very few facilities triage the way the American Dental Association would like them to, Dr. Brennan suggests, but partly because they don’t know how. Teams often don’t know what gum disease looks like or what to do about it. Staff and clinicians alike often don’t understand the relationship between oral and systemic health. “Education from the top down is necessary,” he says. This should include everyone, including pharmacists, who can help identify medication regimens involving drugs that can cause dry mouth or other oral problems.
Oral care won’t happen, says Dr. Brennan, if caregivers dread providing it or don’t have the knowledge or tools to be effective. For example, CNAs often don’t know how to deal with combative residents or provide safe oral care to someone with dementia. “Sometimes caregivers don’t start because they know they can’t finish,” he says, “so it is important to set reasonable goals. You don’t necessarily have to finish the entire mouth at one sitting to be successful.”
There is no time to wait, Dr. Brennan stresses. “Even when residents come into the facility with relatively healthy teeth and good oral health, they can deteriorate quickly if not attended to. Bacteria and pathogens multiple quickly and oral health care break down in a short time.”
Think education won’t work? Think again, says Dr. Brennan. “In the ‘50s and ‘60s, 95% of kids coming into dental offices had decay. Today the decay rate is under 5%. We accomplished this through education.” Facilities can be more effective if they educate the entire team, increase their confidence in their ability to be effective, and set up systems for emergencies and problems that require prompt attention. “These are exciting times,” Dr. Brennan says, as there is a “huge” demand from facilities and physicians for quality oral health education, support, and services.