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Action for Dental Health

Maryland Program Trains Dentists to Provide Care to Nursing Home Residents

February 26, 2015


The Maryland State Dental Association Foundation has developed a pilot program to train 15 teams of dentists, hygienists and dental assistants to provide care for nursing home residents, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Oral Health.

The program is an extension of efforts started last year to improving dentistry in long-term care facilities throughout the state. During winter 2014, dentists and hygienists provided care to more than two dozen residents at the Rockville Nursing Home.

Now the program has expanded to incorporate in-person and online training, including the ADA’s “Dentistry in Long-term Care: Creating Pathways to Success,” an eight-module, self-paced online continuing education course that highlights long-term care delivery models, regulatory and legal compliance, creating and organizing an oral health program, working with complex patients, financial considerations in nursing homes, establishing an environment where effective daily mouth care occurs, and accessing scientific literature.

Each of the 15 teams will comprise a dentist, hygienist and a dental assistant, according to Dr. Charles Doring, who is facilitating the program with fellow Maryland dentist Dr. Janet Yellowitz, who serves on the ADA’s National Elder Care Advisory Committee.  The cost of the course for participants will be offset by the $25,000 in grant money.

“The aim of the project is to get practitioners comfortable with the idea of working in nursing homes, and guide them through the process,” he said.

Seniors – especially those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities – often have special dental needs and complicated medical histories that require consideration and consultation with fellow medical providers. The vulnerable elderly are at particular risk of contracting aspiration pneumonia, caused by inhaling bacteria from untreated dental decay.

“As part of the interactive course, our plan is to invite medical directors, nurses, speech therapists, and other medical professionals to talk about their interactions with nursing home residents, and how it relates to overall health,” Dr. Doring said.

Participants will also attend three in-person training courses held at the Maryland State Dental Association office in Columbia in February, May and August.

“We’ll give the participants their charge on that date – to contact a long-term care facility and set up an appointment to make a presentation,” he said. “Then later in August, the teams will be required to make case presentations detailing their experiences in the nursing homes.”

Dr. Doring said there is a high interest level among Maryland dentists to adopt nursing home residents into their practices. And it’s not isolated to the Old Line State.

Dentists throughout the country have long recognized that nursing home residents face the greatest barriers to accessing dental care of any group of people in America. Through Action for Dental Health, the ADA has set out to train at least 1,000 dentists to provide care in nursing homes, one of the most underserved populations, by 2020 and increase the number of dentists serving on advisory boards or as dental directors of long-term care facilities.

"Every nursing facility needs to have a dentist on staff," Dr. Doring said. "The whole purpose of this initiative is to get more dental professionals comfortable with the idea of going into a nursing home and ensuring that the residents are getting the care they need."

For more information about the program, please contact Eric Biagioli, manager of the Maryland State Dental Association’s Charitable and Education Foundation, at (410) 964-2880, ext. 110.