Dying from Dirty Teeth: A Narrative Review

by Brian Chapnick, DDS

I have been a member of a committee tasked with the re-development of a geriatric dental clinic at Baycrest Hospital in Toronto. Recognising the need , Baycrest approached the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity in Toronto for our professional expertise with this project. After 4 years of planning, the clinic is in the final stages of development and construction is soon to commence, funded initially with a $500,000 donation from the Toronto Chapter of Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, additional donations now approaching $500,000 and tremendous support from Henry Schein.

The real work is just beginning.

Part of the process in the development of this clinic has been an examination of the literature to support the need for the clinic.

Recently, while attending a programme on geriatric dentistry at the Chicago Mid Winter Meeting, a book ‘Dying from Dirty Teeth…..Why the Lack of Proper Oral Care is Killing Nursing Home Residents and How to Prevent It’ was suggested as recommended reading. Written by Angie Stone, RDH , published by Indie: Books International, the book is a passionate plea to the medical/dental profession describing how the dentition of individuals can quickly deteriorate due to the inability to maintain adequate oral care in this aged , medically compromised, disabled and cognitively impaired population and emphasized the need for continued vigilant monitoring and care once our patients are no longer able to come to our traditional dental office. The book is not a scientific expose nor a definitive text on geriatric dentistry. Written in lay terms, it describes the experiences of the author and provides a goal to strive for. Many of us will some day be members of this rapidly increasing in numbers age group. We may have parents and friends , brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, even our children and grandchildren who are or will be in this stage of life.

Gone are the days when nursing home facilities are filled with residents without teeth and with dentures. Modern science has allowed people to retain many of their own teeth for a lifetime. People have spent 10s of thousands of dollars in a lifetime maintaining their dentitions and have diligently cared for them until they are no longer able to do so. Geriatric care facilities are admitting people who have undergone complex dental treatment, who need our expertise to be able to live their final years in comfort and health. The need is great and becoming greater. The lack of care in senior care facilities leads to rapidly deteriorating dentitions, uncontrolled proliferation of bacteria, and biofilms leading to not only infection and pain in the oral cavity and all its sequelae, but also aspirational pneumonia and other infections that place a severe burden on the patient and health care system. Although the book is thinly referenced as it is not intended as a scientific document, the literature does substantiate much of what the author has described and is a valuable resource.

This 88 page book can be purchased from many online sellers in both print and digital format. It is recommended for the entire medical/dental community, hospital administrators, care givers, hospital staff, educators and family members. Find out what you need to know and help solve what is described as an impending crisis.