Ontario Dental Association calls for help for the frail elderly

Special Report on seniors highlights link between poor oral health and disease

TORONTO, April 6, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - In the Ontario Dental Association's (ODA) Special Report, Oral Health and Aging: Addressing Issues and Providing Solutions, released today, the dentists of the province connected poor oral health to heart disease, pneumonia and increased complications from diabetes, while calling for change to assist the frail elderly.

"We need to take care of the elderly, those who cannot care for themselves," says ODA President Dr. Ira Kirshen. "Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in Long-term Care (LTC) facilities, and we can help prevent it by ensuring frail seniors have access to good oral health care. This is serious. We need to help."

The Special Report outlines that poor oral health is connected to several diseases including: respiratory infections (pneumonia), cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), diabetes complications, malnutrition, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The Special Report provides recommendations for government and assistance to the public on how to alleviate the dangers of developing disease from poor oral health.

Recommendations for government include enshrining oral and dental care as a "required program through regulation," ensuring all seniors in LTC facilities have access to:

- Examination by a dentist, both upon admission and every year
afterwards. This would focus on prevention of disease and an
individual oral health-care plan could be developed accordingly.
- A permanent space for a health-care/wellness room for in-house
services by dentists equipped with a dental chair. This would mean
patients would not need to be transferred to other locations for
service, decreasing the cost of transfers to hospitals and private
dental offices.
- Twice daily oral health care (brushing of teeth and flossing) for
those unable to manage their own care with clear standards for those
providing this service.
- A long-term care support staff worker who is trained on the
importance of daily oral health care and equipped to provide that

The ODA is also calling on government to launch an education campaign to increase public awareness about the relationship between oral health and overall health and to conduct an economic analysis on the financial burden created by untreated oral disease among the frail elderly on the health-care system.

"We are asking government to help us care for the frail elderly," states Dr. Kirshen. "That's why the ODA is launching this Special Report and providing materials on our website to get things started right away. Caregivers, seniors and all Ontarians can go to our site and download information on how to help on a daily basis. This is important. We all need to do our part."

For more information about the Special Report, the downloadable materials or the ODA, please visit www.youroralhealth.ca.