The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI College of Dentistry launches app for caregivers and nursing homes

The app features tutorials and videos to help caregivers administer dental care to older people or people with dementia.
Ava Neumaier/The Daily Iowan
Dentistry students help a patient at the Geriatrics and Special Needs Clinic in the UI College of Dentistry on Thursday, Feb. 8th. Dr. Leonardo Marchini and his students designed an app to help older patients with oral care.

Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry developed an app that walks caregivers through providing oral hygiene care for people with dementia and older adults.

With the help of a $100,000 grant from the Delta Dental Institute, Leonardo Marchini, a professor and department executive officer of preventive and community dentistry and his team were able to complete a clinical trial of the app in a nursing home.

The app, named Dental.Aging.Tips, is free for anyone, and consists of tutorials and videos that teach caregivers in nursing homes or those caring for a loved one at home how to clean patients’ teeth or provide other forms of hygiene care.

The sections in the app include:

  • Why oral health is important, including facts and common oral health problems.
  • Tips on providing daily care, such as managing dry mouth, brushing teeth and dentures.
  • Overcoming barriers to good care, like good care techniques.
  • Frequently asked questions section with advice on wearing dentures, brushing behaviors, etc. 

For example, there are videos to help reduce the stress of patients with dementia through techniques like distraction and focusing on another person or TV. Other videos inform caregivers how to deal with a patient who may be acting aggressively.

Almost immediately, Marchini said the benefits of the app were noticeable as caregivers reported the success of the techniques. Marchini said anytime a nursing home starts a routine oral hygiene protocol, the first thing that happens is patients report better well-being and better quality of life.

Caregivers also began reporting more job satisfaction and better knowledge aiding their work.

“In an area that is chronically overworked and underpaid, it’s important they feel that they are doing a better job,” Marchini said. “It’s always good to have that rewarding feeling, that glee — you are making a difference.”

When patients’ teeth, gums, and overall mouth are being attentively cared for the health benefits are immense, Marchini said.

Food becomes easier to taste, which can improve conditions such as diabetes and hypertension because patients need less sugar and salt to taste their food.

Expanded palatability also means patients can enjoy a more diverse diet and improved nutrition.

Another benefit is removing harmful bacteria that can form a biofilm on the surface of the mouth when not regularly cleaned.

Patients can inhale this bacterium and develop respiratory infections such as pneumonia, which Marchini said is the leading cause of death among nursing home residents.

Delta Dental Institute presented the findings in January. Joseph Dill, Delta Dental Chief Dental Officer, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that Marchini’s research will provide caregivers with a new tool.

The app has been so successful that Marchini said there have already been requests to translate the tutorials into 17 languages for use worldwide.

“The most rewarding thing is to listen to the caregivers when they are explaining how the app has helped them understand and overcome problems,” Marchini said. “Whenever we have a chance to hear a caregiver or a family member saying that it helps improve the life of mom and dad, that makes a big difference.”

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About the Contributor
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.