Team of Oral Care Specialists Visits Shelters to Preserve Health of Quake Evacuees

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman receives instructions on proper oral care at a shelter in Anamizu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

A team of dentists and hygienists have visited shelters in the areas hit by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake to help maintain the oral hygiene of evacuees during a shortage of water.

The purpose of the team’s visit is to prevent elderly evacuees from developing aspiration pneumonia, which occurs when food or liquid mistakenly enters the airways or lungs, by inhibiting the growth of oral bacteria.

Germs are likely to increase inside the mouth when the frequency of toothbrushing decreases, which is a concern in earthquake-hit areas where the water supply is cut off. Elderly people are particularly susceptible to developing aspiration pneumonia.

On Sunday, 15 dentists and dental hygienists from the Ishikawa Dental Association visited seven shelters in Anamizu in the prefecture to give instructions on oral care to evacuees staying at the facilities.

At one of the shelters, where about 180 evacuees are still left without a water supply, dental hygienist Hitomi Nishide asked a 94-year-old woman if she had been able to brush her dentures. Nishide then taught the woman how to use wet wipes to clean her teeth when there is no running water. The woman followed the instructions and happily said, “My mouth feels refreshed.”

“Oral care tends to become a low priority in evacuation life, but aspiration pneumonia can be fatal to elderly people. I hope they will brush their teeth and take care of their false teeth before going to sleep,” said Atsunori Ejiri of the Ishikawa Dental Association.

At the request of the prefecture, the Japan Dental Association is also preparing to dispatch a support team to the shelters.