I'm not surprised dementia is now being tied to gum disease. I have long believed the mouth offers a convenient and unflinching window to the soul, and that everything important about someone can be ascertained by a careful inspection of his or her teeth and oral cavity.
Skeptical? Let's try a little experiment. Look around for someone you don't know that well, and tactfully ask if you can take a quick peek inside his or her mouth. Trust me, strength of character, self-esteem, personal discipline and commitment to general tidiness will all be instantly revealed — along with an obvious inability to set appropriate boundaries.
Unfortunately, as humans who require occasional dental care, that means we're all constantly vulnerable to inadvertently revealing unpleasant truths about ourselves. At one point in my life, I even handed my new hygienist a non-judgment form, precluding her from thinking badly of me as a result of anything unpleasant she saw in my mouth.
One paragraph read, “Even though his teeth may have the appearance of a 95-year-old British carnival worker, I recognize that this does not mean he's a bad person.” As she was an extremely attractive and personable young woman, I apparently thought requiring her signature was an amusing concept that would make further contact with me irresistible. Looking back, I realize the gum-induced dementia was already setting in.
Certainly, it's potentially off-putting and risky to begin job interviews with prospective long-term care employees by asking them to please open wide. But if evidence reveals poor oral hygiene practices, do you really want them working for you? How likely are they to have a tidy workspace if they don't floss? If there's no sense of personal responsibility for their teeth, won't they always find a co-worker to blame, or a reason to sue you?
To help solve this problem and thus enhance the effectiveness of your recruiting and retention efforts, I advocate a law mandating regular tooth brushing and other enhanced oral hygiene techniques for all Americans. Unfortunately, in this highly charged political climate, I doubt national gum control legislation is realistic.
Sorry, that was horrible joke. It was obviously made by someone desperately seeking affirmation and approval, but without the focus and determination necessary to craft genuinely funny material. But if you've ever looked in my mouth, you already know that.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.