Recently, the Buffalo chapter of ASDA hosted a session of “Fun and Games with UB Dental” at our local nursing home, Elderwood. We chose to volunteer with this population because we often see that geriatric individuals are underserved when it comes to oral hygiene knowledge as well as access to oral hygiene supplies.
In small groups, we reviewed how they should be caring for their natural dentition/removable appliances and how to use some of the products we provided in goodie bags: toothpaste, a toothbrush, denture adhesive and cleanser. We continued the afternoon eating cake and playing bingo. During the game, we gave out prizes we had purchased that they typically don’t have the chance to win at their weekly bingo games. At the end of the day, everyone left with their own custom-made vase of fresh flowers to keep in their rooms. We all had a great time, and the residents were happy to find out “Fun and Games with UB Dental” wasn’t all about teeth.
Our chapter has always been involved with Elderwood, and since we received the Colgate “Dentistry in the Community” grant, we thought it would be great to do something for the geriatric community. One challenge we realized upon getting to the nursing home was that everyone living there had different dental, physical, and mental needs and abilities. Rather than giving a group presentation like we initially planned, we split up into small groups to have these dental talks with the residents. This allowed us to make the experience a little more personal for everyone and gave us the opportunity to address more specific needs of each resident.
Personally, I had a great time at this event. I saw how happy the residents were throughout the afternoon, and a lot of them approached me throughout the event to tell me how grateful they were for having UB Dental there.
After this event, I better understand that a lot of the things we take for granted when it comes to access to care can be a problem for others, including those in the geriatric population. Providing sound apparatus for seniors who need durable equipment is a must and it is extremely important to continue outreach with this community. A lot of them have no transportation to a dental clinic, which means their dental needs are being neglected. Outreach events such as this one are a great way to bring some awareness to the importance of oral health. For some, this may be their only form of access to dental care.
If you’d like to start your own outreach project with the geriatric population, keep in mind that everyone is unique. Everyone has their own mental, physical and dental needs, so you have to find a way to individualize care. Not everyone fits into a mold and should be treated the same way. Also, communication with the geriatric community may pose some challenges. Sometimes, repetition and demonstrations are the best ways to educate them about the importance of oral hygiene.
This event has helped me understand that achieving proper oral health is multifactorial. There are many barriers to care that exist for geriatric patients that must be overcome. The patient is not always the one to blame for poor oral hygiene. Physically, some of them may not be able to perform proper dental hygiene, and so they rely on caretakers to do so. As health care providers, we should do a better job of educating not just the geriatric population but also their family members and caretakers. Then, we will begin to see improvements in our patients’ oral health, which will hopefully translate to better general health.
We are grateful to Colgate for sponsoring products for us to hand out during the event. The residents were astounded by the generous amount of toothbrushes and toothpaste given. Without Colgate’s sponsorship, we would not have been able to successfully implement this outreach event.
~Yuhan Sun, Buffalo ’20
ASDA thanks Colgate for their exclusive sponsorship of the National Outreach Initiative. This backing includes funding for the Dentistry in the Community Grant and free oral health care supplies to any chapter that requests them.
This content is sponsored and does not necessarily reflect the views of ASDA.