DHAA launches education pack for aged care

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You can get a haircut in an aged care facility, but dental care is often harder to come by.
You can get a haircut in an aged care facility, but dental care is often harder to come by.

The Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia Inc. has launched a portfolio of education material designed to assist in improving the oral health of older people living in residential care facilities.

The Oral Health for Those Who Care package was produced in collaboration with the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry. It contains documents and DVDs to equip oral health professionals to train nurses, carers and residents of acute and long-term care facilities in good oral health care. The package may be accessed from here.

“We have an aging population who are retaining more teeth and have more complex dental work than in past years,” explains Margie Steffens, a dental hygienist and lecturer at the University of Adelaide. “Residents living in supported care facilities frequently have access to hairdressing, manicure or podiatry services on site but little provision is made for basic preventive dental health care, which is proven to contribute to better overall health. We hope that this package will assist with information and training for a range of caregivers and will ultimately improve the overall wellbeing of older people.”

To this end, DHAA Inc.’s members endeavour to undertake outreach work in aged care facilities across the country in order to assess the dental risk of older people. With increased understanding and knowledge of optimal care, avoidable conditions such as aspiration pneumonia may be prevented. The Oral Health for Those Who Care package will improve the care offered to older people nationwide by educating both them and their carers in dental hygiene skills.

Dental hygienists are highly trained dental health care professionals who specialise in preventive oral health, focusing on techniques that ensure oral tissues and teeth are maintained and remain healthy in order to prevent dental disease. They work in a variety of locations, including dental practices, hospitals and community settings, without a dentist being present, but as an integral part of a broader dental team.

A recent parliamentary inquiry into adult dental services has recognised the value of the community outreach care provided by dental hygienists and recommended the removal of various barriers to enable the expansion of such services.

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