Does Assisted Living Assist with Oral Health Care?
January is Oral Health Awareness month. Older adults are especially prone to higher health risks because of underlying poor dental habits and care.
Oral Care Affects Heart Health
Oral health affects the whole body. Diseases like gingivitis, gum disease, dry mouth, and cavities can lead to severe infections. Bacterial infection in the mouth gets released into the body through the blood stream. The infection can attach to damaged areas of the heart, causing inflammation and cardiovascular disease. These heart conditions lead to higher incidents of strokes and heart attacks.
Almost 30% of adults 65-74 years have untreated cavities and gum disease. Daily oral hygiene habits are key in preventing decay. Also, seniors need regular dental checkups, cleanings, and fillings to stay healthy. But, routine dental care is not covered by Medicare.
For some seniors, access to dental care can be limited. Barriers include transportation issues and the high out-of-pocket costs of dental care.
How Do Assisted Living Facilities Help with Oral Care?
Seniors move to assisted living because they need help with daily tasks of living. They may have some forgetfulness, arthritis or mobility issues making it difficult to stick to good oral care habits. They often need help with daily brushing, flossing and denture care.
Assisted living offers oral care help as part of their individualized care-plans. Care attendants can assist with the full range of care. Depending on the senior’s abilities, caregivers help with daily reminders or perform the entire task of brushing and flossing. They encourage residents to drink more water which is a key factor in keeping a healthy mouth.
Caregivers also note if a resident complains of mouth pain, dentures not fitting properly, or if a resident isn’t eating well because of these issues. Some medications cause changes to the mouth, teeth, and gums so assisted living nurses instruct caregivers to watch for signs of problems.
Assisted living facilities provide caregiver training in multiple areas, oral health included. If you’re considering a community for a loved one, ask about oral care training.
Also, ask about visiting dentist and dental hygiene clinics. Many facilities partners with senior dental groups. These dental healthy providers come in periodically to provide check-ups and cleanings. These clinics may be free or low cost. If there’s a charge, it is an out-of-pocket expense. (Communities will often have hearing aid and foot care clinics too.)
Assisted living communities usually offer transportation for local medical and dental appointments. If they don’t, they’ll help arrange transportation.
Other Resources for Senior Oral Care
There may also be affordable senior dental clinics in your area of town.
Here’s a resource listing for senior-friendly dental services in the Portland Metro area:
- Retirement Connection Guide – https://retirementconnection.com/listings/dental-resources-community-government-portland
Other resources for finding help:
- Toothwisdom.org – is a project of Oral Health America, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and serves both seniors and their caregivers by teaching about oral health in aging and by connecting individuals with affordable dental clinics.
- 2-1-1 Information & Referral – sponsored by United Way. Simply dial 211 on your phone. They can connect you to services in your area.
- Dental Lifeline – https://dentallifeline.org/ A program of Donated Dental Services (DDS). Dental care is provided through a national network of 15,000 volunteer dentists and 3,500 volunteer laboratories.
- Call your local Senior Center for information & referral.
Assisted living facilities provide oral care for residents who need it. However, personal care attendants are busy. They divide their time between many residents. Sometimes, thorough oral care falls by the wayside.
If you’re choosing a community for a loved one, ask about the oral care provided. Ask how they fulfill each person’s care-plan, and what other oral care programs are offered.
Finding an assisted living community with a consistent track record of care is important. Contact Living Right Senior Placement for help. We’ve pre-screened, previewed, and regularly check compliance records of senior living facilities.