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VDA launches senior care pilot project

July 15, 2015

By Craig Palmer

Dr. Iuorno
Richmond, Va. — The Virginia Dental Association launched a yearlong pilot project in May to demonstrate the value of preventive care for seniors living in long-term care facilities.

The project is part of the American Dental Association's Action for Dental Health movement, the VDA said. The Action for Dental Health initiative encourages dentist participation in nursing home care and prevention programs through local community outreach, continuing education and training to work in long-term care. The ADA offers an online continuing education course in dental care for older adults in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers.

Dr. Frank Iuorno, who chairs the Virginia initiative, said that prevention is the key to reducing disease among nursing home residents. Poor daily oral hygiene can result in pain, infection, eating difficulties and hospitalization. "This is a nationwide problem that's going to become a huge issue in years to come," he said.

While federal regulations require nursing homes to provide oral health services, funding is often not available, the VDA said.  

Dentists, hygienists and other volunteers kicked off the Virginia demonstration with dental screenings for some 60 seniors in Charlottesville May 1 and 100 in Richmond May 15. A hygienist and dental assistant will offer education and preventive care for participating residents of the respective facilities, and local dentists will provide more comprehensive care as needed.

By having dental professionals as full-time staff, the VDA believes the pilot project will demonstrate that tending to the basic oral care needs of residents will improve their overall health, avoid unnecessary emergency treatments and reduce expensive hospital admissions related to dental disease.

"We believe ongoing dental care within a long-term care facility will improve the lives of residents and reduce the burden on the health care system," Dr. Iuorno said.