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HMC advocates better oral health awareness and care for older adults

HMC advocates better oral health awareness and care for older adults

Tribune News Network
Doha
Dental experts globally suggest that oral health is far more important than many people realise as it impacts the overall health and well-being of people, especially as they get older.
Teams from Hamad Dental Services and Geriatric and Long-Term Care Department collaborate to provide oral health care to older patients who may not be able to manage their own mouth care.
Dr Ghanim Al Mannai, dental services chairman at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), explained how oral healthcare services for older adults has been expanding over the years.
He said, “We have been providing specialist oral healthcare for long-term care patients in our facilities for several years already.
“We added services for home-care patients about a year ago and plan more improvements to services. Too often, people with a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, present with higher incidents of tooth decay and gum disease and these are some of the most vulnerable among the patient population group that need special care.”
Healthcare professionals also advocate for more public awareness of the importance of good oral healthcare for anyone, and especially older people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, including Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
Dr Khalifa Al Ansari, senior consultant and vice-chairman of Education at Hamad Dental Center, stressed that a lack of awareness regarding the importance of oral health often results in neglect, which could lead to serious health problems among the older generation.
“The state of your oral health represents a window to your overall health, but too often it is ignored until more serious health problems emerge. A lack of proper oral hygiene can result in excessive harmful bacteria in the mouth that may lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease,” said Dr Ansari. “Often mouth diseases can be an indication of or amplified by a chronic illness, such as diabetes, osteoporosis or heart disease.”
There are several common oral health problems that become more prevalent as a person ages, including chronic diseases, gum disease, untreated tooth decay or oral cancer. All of these can result in the loss of teeth and pain, which in turn can inhibit the intake of food and possibly lead to malnutrition. Good dental care throughout a person’s life, and especially in older adults, can help prevent common problems, like toothache, gum disease and tooth loss.
“People with memory loss or other cognitive or mobility impairments may not be able to manage their own oral hygiene and it is important that carers, whether in a long-term care facility or at home, include daily mouth cleaning activities as part of routine hygiene practices. For this reason, we work closely with the home healthcare and long-term care teams to assist them in providing appropriate mouth care to their patients. Our goal is to reduce the risk of serious mouth diseases and the need for more acute intervention to enable our older patients to enjoy better overall health for longer,” added Dr Ansari.
Some common issues that older people experience include dry mouth disease, which is often the result of taking a multitude of medications, and this can be managed by the dentist prescribing artificial saliva or an oral rinse and simple options such as sucking on sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production.
Typical problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, a burning sensation, trouble speaking or difficulty swallowing. Mariam Al Mutawa, executive director of Nursing at Rumailah Hospital, said patients who need assistance with personal grooming tasks are aided by nurses or patient care assistants.
“Our inpatients, whether in Rumailah Hospital, Enaya or DAAM Specialized Care Center, receive support in helping them brush their teeth or clean their dentures daily. Basic oral healthcare checks are conducted during every shift and our nursing teams will flag any concerns to the dental service for follow up if needed,” said Mutawa. “But we encourage family and private carers to also monitor patients for signs of infection or mouth disease. By being vigilant, we can minimise discomfort and pain and the risk of more severe illnesses.”
HMC’s Geriatric and Long-Term Care Department based in Rumailah Hospital, which manages both DAAM and Enaya long-term care centres, has added several new clinics and services over the past year to provide better diagnostic and preventative care to vulnerable patients. One of these is regular dental visits arranged between the centre staff and the Hamad Dental Service team.
Dentists recommend good oral hygiene practices daily to protect mouth health, including brushing teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste; flossing; using mouthwash to remove remaining food particles; replacing the toothbrush every three months and scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings.
In addition, they advocate eating a healthy diet that limits intake foods with added sugars and avoiding tobacco use.

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