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Student Project Could Help Thousands of Elderly Marylanders

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Written by Adam Zewe

The efforts of a University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) dental hygiene student could help thousands of elderly Marylanders improve their oral health. Nancy Stannert, RDH, is producing a DVD training program that teaches nursing assistants who work in long-term care facilities how to provide oral care for residents. Later this year, the Frederick County Health Department will distribute Stannert's training DVD to all the long-term care facilities in the county.

In many long-term care facilities, nursing assistants provide oral hygiene services for residents, including tooth brushing, flossing and denture cleaning, Stannert explains. She studied oral health care in nursing homes as part of her coursework in the UMSOD dental hygiene degree completion program. The program enables hygienists who possess associateýs degrees to complete additional training and earn bachelor's degrees.

Stannert designed a DVD to educate nursing assistants about the importance of oral health, demonstrate proper oral hygiene techniques and highlight warning signs that indicate oral health problems. The DVD also features a series of how-to videos Stannert filmed at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster. "An 80-year-old mouth is different than a 30-year-old mouth. These nursing assistants need a better understanding of what is normal for elderly patients, and what is not normal," says Stannert.

For example, many elderly patients suffer from dry mouth, which is a common side effect of many medications. Dry mouth can lead to the development of cavities and gum disease. Nursing assistants should also check patients' dentures carefully for cracks, which can create sores in the mouth or on the edge of the tongue. "In many ways, the health of these residents depends on their oral health," she says. "There is a huge correlation between the mouth and the rest of the body." Stannert is hopeful that dental hygienists in other states will use her project as a model for their own educational programs.

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  • Posting Date: 04/24/2014