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Treating older adults

Dentists use OralLongevity DVD, resources in daily practice

Since the ADA, the ADA Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare launched the OralLongevity initiative in September 2007, dental professionals across the U.S. have used its education materials and resources to reach out to older adults in their communities.

A Seattle-area dentist is taking the OralLongevity brochure and DVD education program to 10 nursing homes where she currently treats patients, using them as part of her in-service training of staff on dental care basics for residents.

A dental hygienist in Wisconsin showed the DVD to 100 or so attendees at a senior health fair Nov. 2 and a father-and-son team of dentists in North Carolina is hoping to reach about 50 nursing homes and retirement communities with the materials in the coming months.

"The vital connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body is now common knowledge," said Dr. Lindsey A. Robinson, chair of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

"The material developed for the OralLongevity initiative helps dental professionals assist older adults and caregivers in maintaining good oral health for life. CAPIR is pleased to direct this collaboration between GSK Consumer Healthcare and the ADA, and excited to see the oral health care community already putting this resource into practice," commented Dr. Robinson.

"I found out about the OralLongevity materials when I was at annual session in San Francisco," said Dr. Michelle Caldier, a dentist in Bellevue, Wash. "I treat patients in 10 Seattle-area nursing homes, and this is a perfect tool to use when talking with nursing home staff members about the importance of oral care for their residents."

Since earning her dental degree in 2001, Dr. Caldier has made working with older adults a priority in her career.

"When I did my nursing home rotation in dental school I saw there was such a great need. So by November of 2001, I had gotten my mobile dental equipment together and started going to nursing homes," she says.

Dr. Caldier is also working to recruit more dentists in her area who'd be willing to treat patients in nursing homes, whether they have one day a week or one day a month.

"I'm willing to help other dentists by loaning them my portable equipment and by helping them overcome possible barriers they might encounter in a nursing home," Dr. Caldier says. "Sometimes it's hard just trying to figure out how to get people with limited mobility into a dental chair or how to work with nursing home staff.

"Older adults have given so much to our country and our society, and I want to help them overcome barriers they might have in receiving dental care."

Dr. Caldier also hopes to share the OralLongevity materials with local schools that train certified nursing assistants—people who provide the most hands-on care for nursing home residents and can be an important link to helping them maintain good oral health.

"When I reviewed the OralLongevity DVD, I thought it was very special," said Dr. Baxter B. Sapp Jr., a dentist in Durham, N.C. "I showed it to my son, who is also a dentist [Dr. Hal Sapp], and he agreed that it was one of the best education tools for older adults we've seen."

Dr. Sapp, a past president of the International College of Dentists, is in his 56th year of dental practice and says he has no plans to stop or slow down.

"Older patients need our help and the ADA and GSK Consumer Healthcare address it well in this DVD," says Dr. Sapp. He is compiling a list of about 50 assisted living facilities in the Raleigh-Durham area that he will contact, offering them the chance to use the OralLongevity materials in their facilities.

"It's a great opportunity to help some people," he adds. Dr. Sapp says he will keep the ADA News and CAPIR informed on his progress.

In Evansville, Wis., dental hygienist Mary Hartje distributed OralLongevity brochure and DVD packets at a senior health fair last month. Her boss, Dr. Benjamin Farrow, was impressed with the educational materials and saw a way to use them in the community.

"The material is great," said Ms. Hartje. "This is a population that's growing and their dental needs are more prevalent. More older adults have a long, healthy life ahead of them and it's really important to us to educate them on their changing dental needs and challenges.

One example, she said, is that many of the seniors she spoke with reported having dry mouth.

"Some of them didn't realize that medications they take might make their mouths dry.

"Some of the seniors at the health fair were thrilled to receive the DVD to use on their computers, and others were a little hesitant to take one until I told them they could play the DVD in the DVD player hooked to their television set," Ms. Hartje said. "Next year, I hope to be showing the DVD on a television set during the health fair."

"Periodontal disease, xerostomia and edentulism are key oral health concerns for older Americans," said Dr. Ronald L. Rupp, senior manger of professional relations, GSK Consumer Healthcare. "At GSK Consumer Healthcare, we are committed to helping oral health care providers understand the unique problems facing older patients, and helping them find solutions. We are excited to see our efforts with the ADA and ADA Foundation are having such an immediate impact on these audiences."