LEBANON — Dale Talbot, 98, had an oral health dental exam late last week, and he didn't even have to leave his home.
The World War II veteran received the checkup from Kyle Isaacs in the barber room at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home on Thursday. Isaacs is an expanded practice dental hygienist, who has been visiting long-term care facilities in east Linn county along with Molly Perino, oral health supervisor for Benton County.
Isaacs chose not to perform a cleaning on Talbot because of the veteran's increased infection risk after his hip replacement.
Perino helped pilot the program that brings limited dental care to 14 long-term care facilities in the Benton and east Linn County areas. The veterans home provided a specialized dental wheelchair to help Isaacs examine patients.
The Lebanon veterans facility is the first place Isaacs and Perino visited in September, and they have returned on a monthly basis since.
"We're changing the way heath care is delivered," Perino said.
Perino said she noticed people were not leaving long-term care facilities to go see a dentist.
"We know they're not accessing services," Perino said. "So we need to know why, and what we can do to change that."
The funding for the program is coming from InterCommunity Health Network CCO, Perino said.
Often, patients may not articulate their dental needs when they are staying in a care facility, Perino said.
"There's tremendous need, and they're not seeking dental services through the traditional manners; they're not making dental appointments regularly, so we're coming to them," Perino said. "This is just breaking down the access."
As a hygienist, Isaacs can provide several dental treatments, but a few procedures, such as fillings, can only be performed by a dentist, she said. However, Isaacs would like to see the mobile program expand so that an area dentist comes to the facilities.
As an expanded practice hygenist, Isaacs can provide oral cancer exams, overall assessments, cleanings and she can apply silver diamine fluoride to cavities, which stops decay and turns cavities black, Isaacs said.
"It's been really crucial because if these people aren't going to go somewhere, or if it's delayed, we can stop it (by using that substance) and slow the progression," Isaacs said.
Isaacs said when patients have a high amount of bacteria in their mouths, they have a higher chance of heart attack, stroke, cancers and aspiration pneumonia.
"Aspiration pneumonia is a huge problem in long-term care facilities," Isaacs said. "So they aspirate bacteria into their lungs, then they have to go to the hospital."
With regular oral hygiene, patients are three times less likely to die from aspiration pneumonia, she said.
Perino added that while the patients they are seeing are often higher risk due to age and a variety of other factors associated with staying in a long-term care facility, everyone needs dental care.
"It doesn't matter how young or how old you are, everybody should still see the dentist," Perino said. "Everybody can benefit from preventive measures like this."