Oral Health, Pneumonia and Parkinson’s

Oral Healthcarefor Parkinson'sBy Betty Anna Gidlof , RDHAP

(Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice)

As Parkinson’s advances, most Parkinson’s patients cannot perform their own oral care. It is reported that 72% to 84% of nursing home residents had difficulty in brushing their own teeth, and 78% to 94% of denture wearers found it difficult or impossible to clean their dentures themselves. In another study, only 5% of the residential home dwellers who requested assistance with oral care ever received it.

Pneumonia is caused by germs that build up in the lungs and block the flow of oxygen to the body. If the mouth is not clean, more germs in the mouth and throat increase the chances of sparking an infection. If air and or material brought into the lungs have lots of germs in it to begin with, it makes it easier for an infection to get started.

Oral health is not a cosmetic issue-it can be a matter of life and death, especially for seniors.

Most clinicians accept that there’s a link between aspiration pneumonia and poor oral health. Researchers who conducted an analysis of 19 studies on the association between respiratory diseases and oral health found strong evidence that improved oral hygiene significantly decreases the incidence of respiratory diseases among nursing home residents.

Regular cleanings of teeth and gums may prevent pneumonia for Parkinson’s patients. This conclusion was based on comparing pneumonia rates between residents of 11 nursing homes in Japan who received regular cleanings and those who received no additional oral care.

The researchers found that residents whose teeth were regularly cleaned had fewer cases of pneumonia and were less likely to die from the infection.

RDHAPs (Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice) are licensed dental professionals with years of experience who specialize in treating patients with special needs, such as patients with mental or physical disabilities whose health conditions limit their abilities to access quality dental care.

The RDHAP delivers oral hygiene care to homebound clients, children in school settings and clients in residential care facilities and other institutions.

RDHAPs may also establish practices in communities that have been designated as dental health professional shortage areas.

The California professional licensure category, called RDHAP, began as a Health Manpower Project in 1986. In 1998 after 12 years of study, the category was established by the legislature with 19 Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) receiving an RDHAP license. In 2002 the first training program was approved. The first class graduated in 2003.

Parkinson’s Resource Organization is so proud to welcome to the WELLNESS VILLAGE our first MOBILE DENTIST, Brite Smiles of California, Inc, Betty Anna Gidlof, RDH, RDHAP.  Click here to visit her on the Wellness Village.

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