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The Geriatric Tooth Fairy is REAL!

Meet Sonya Dunbar - Advocate for Seniors

by Sonya Dunbar

Being the Geriatric Tooth Fairy is my mission in life. 

Choosing the path of a dental professional is a noble deed. Oral well-being is incredibly important in taking care of a person’s overall health, and it has become my mission to make sure that the health of the greatest generation is the best it can possibly be.

Due to their advanced age, seniors are at a much higher risk of neglecting their teeth. Mobility issues, memory disorders, and lack of care are just some of the many reasons aging adults have a much higher chance of suffering from gum disease, tooth loss, and dry mouth.

In my line of work, I have seen a lot of tragedies, and today I want to share with you all one of the most shocking experiences I’ve had in my career.

Poor Oral Health Affects The Self-Esteem of Seniors

Imagine being a dental professional asked to come to a nursing home to take a look at a patient.

The patient had been in the nursing home for 8 months and during that time had not allowed anyone to take a look at her teeth. It had gotten to the point that the smell coming out of her mouth prompted her caretakers to give me a call.

She spoke broken English and was having a hard time expressing herself, so it was difficult for her to communicate with the staff or with me. It took a lot of patience and coaxing, but I was finally able to convince her to let me glove up and take a look in her mouth.

When I looked in, there was a strong odor and it appeared to be that she had a denture. It took some time, but the doctor and I were finally able to get the denture out.

On her upper denture was a layer of black mold. The patient was so ashamed at this point that she had tears rolling down her face. It must have been so painful for her, both physically and emotionally, to have lived with her teeth in that condition for so long.

She suffered from dementia and therefore couldn’t care for herself well, and no one had taken the time to help her remove her dentures.

The doctor and I cleaned up her mouth, but I knew at that moment that her dental health wasn’t the only thing that had eroded; her self-esteem and her dignity had taken a very big hit.

That is why it’s so important for me as the Geriatric Toothfairy to spread this doctrine:

No matter your age, everyone deserves the bare minimum of having their mouth taken care of.

Lack of Dental Training in Long-Term Care Facilities

During my time working in nursing homes, I’ve noted an unfortunate fact: most CNA’s working in these facilities are not properly trained on how to take care of their residents’ dental health.

There are times in which staff don’t even know if patients have implants, partials, or dentures, and if they do, they have not been trained to care for these. Patients sometimes go without flossing because they aren’t able to do it themselves and the staff is not knowledgeable on how to do so for them.

There is also the issue of medication. Did you know that most residents in nursing homes take about nine pills a day?

Most of the time, these pills are crushed because residents have difficulty swallowing, which in turn leads to medicine-coated tongues. This can cause lack of taste, dry mouth, and oral decay, which dental professionals can take care of with tongue cleanings.

It is imperative that the staff caring for our elders is properly trained on how to provide some of these crucial dental services, but even that isn’t always enough. There is a high turnover rate in this field, and that’s why it is so much more important to have a dental professional in-house that can help the patients.

That was one of the driving motivators for me to start my mobile dental business, because I know that the oral care seniors are receiving in long-term care facilities is lacking.

We are able to provide comprehensive dental care, cleanings, oral cancer screenings, and many other essential services to the elderly, always in facilities that would not be able to provide these services by themselves.

Along with that, we provide training to staff members to get them up to snuff on how to best care for their residents’ oral health.

You Can Become a Geriatric Tooth Fairy in Your Community!

My biggest mission in this life is to ensure the happiness and well-being of our greatest generation. The way in which I do this is by taking the role of Geriatric Tooth Fairy and caring for the dental health of our seniors.

My job is to be the voice to those whose voices have become a whisper because their voice is softer.

I have developed a course to train CNAs, because I’m looking for other people who want to go on this mission with me. I also have a course to train other dental professionals, dental assistants, dentists, dental hygienists, and office managers to become the best possible caregivers to our seniors.

You can become a Geriatric Tooth Fairy!  Go into the community, go to long-term care facilities, and go into nursing homes to care for those who need it most.   Use your time and talents to serve our seniors!  

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