The GDA Committee for Oral Health in Institutional Settings has a plan to reach out to every nursing home facility in Georgia and give facility staff members tools they can use to provide daily oral health care to residents and know when to seek professional dental care. The key is involving GDA dentists as effective trainers to deliver those tools to nursing home facilities and help the staff create an environment where residents can enjoy optimal oral health.

"Our committee endorses the use of Overcoming Obstacles to Oral Health," said Chairman Dr. Jonathan Dubin, referring to an educational program developed by the University of the Pacific and endorsed by the American Dental Association. "Our goal is to train dentists to present the program in Georgia nursing homes, and hope that every nursing home in the state will purchase a program kit for their facilities and use them for reference."

The committee has purchased a handful of program kits for use in training dentists on how to carry the program’s message into nursing homes. The committee also mailed a letter to 402 nursing home facilities encouraging the facilities to purchase their own Overcoming Obstacles to Oral Health program kit. The letter informed facility administrators about the availability of GDA trainers who can visit and conduct the program onsite.

As responses and requests come in as expected from the nursing homes, the GDA does have a "shortlist" of dentists on file who are available and willing to conduct trainings. However, more dentist volunteers are needed in every GDA district to carry dentistry’s message into nursing homes.

"We have this great program and now we need some of our great GDA dentists to step forward," said Dr. Dubin. "The training process is very easy and straightforward. Once you as a dentist are comfortable and ready to present the information, your time commitment at an interested facility would be approximately one-half hour for the presentation and then answering whatever questions are asked.

"Many older Americans can provide for their own home care, but we do have more than 400 Georgia institutional facilities with long-term residents, and many of them are elderly," said Dr. Dubin. "Too often, nursing home staff members receive very basic training or no training at all when it comes to oral health care provisions for these residents. There are obstacles to providing good oral care in an institutional setting, but those obstacles are easily overcome if a proper training program is initiated."

Overcoming Obstacles to Oral Health presents information for training key facility staff. But primary author Dr. Paul Glassman of the University of the Pacific told the ADA News that the program also provides solutions to key challenges that can undermine a successful oral health program.

"The literature is clear that if you just do training for direct caregivers, it often does not result in behavior change," Dr. Glassman said in the ADA News. "So we have information in [the kit] about how to set up an environment where there is the right kind of emphasis placed on daily mouth care."

The program kit contains a CD-Rom filled with printable forms, tests, manuals, and workbooks that can be used by either direct caregivers or trainers of direct caregivers. The DVD features videos for both audiences.

"We want nursing homes to be aware of how fast a resident’s condition can go downhill without the delivery of consistent daily oral care," said Dr. Dubin. "So many residents are on medications that can affect the oral cavity, and may not be able to provide for their own daily care. We want to partner with the nursing homes to ensure that these vulnerable individuals obtain the oral care they need. We also want staff to learn how to recognize when a dentist needs to be called and that GDA dentists are a local resource for these homes when professional care is needed."

To volunteer your time, or simply find out more about the program, contact a member of the GDA Committee for Oral Health in Institutional Settings. Click this link to access the GDA Committee listings. Your time and help are appreciated.