Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are These Your Teeth?

I was in my early twenties working in a nursing home. I enjoyed my time in long term care, I worked as a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant). That was some of the hardest work I have ever done, and I loved it. I loved learning from the residents, they were so wise and just loved to share their knowledge. What I loved even more were the residents who had Alzheimers. I enjoyed going to "their world" with them. Many times the world they would revert back to was much more pleasant than the current place they were in, in their lives. And joining them there, made it all the better for them.

At this time in my life, I was working night shift. This shift in a nursing home is a very regimented shift. First, make sure everyone that didn't get put to bed on evening shift, is now safely tucked in for the night. Second, start bedcheck; turn, change, potty, offer drink, and anything else they wanted. Third, dump linen, and restock the linen cart. Forth, wash wheel chairs, change out supplies, etc. until the next bedcheck. Bedcheck was every 2 hours. If you were lucky enough your assignment didn't take a whole 2 hours to complete a bedcheck.

During a particular night shift, I was working with a LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and a new QMA (Qualified Medical Assistant). The QMA was helping me with bedcheck and the CNA duties. She was still on orientation, as I remember it. We were so lucky this night because we had some down time in between bed checks. She was so excited to be able to sit back put her feet up and read a magazine. Just as I was realizing what she was about to do, I informed her, during the down times we were to clean. Clean wheelchairs, resident rooms, bedside tables, resident closets, dresser drawers, or anything that looked like it needed to be cleaned.

I told the new QMA to head down the hall and brush all the dentures that were sitting on each person's bedside table. I knew that many times the evening shift would take a "short cut" and just put each person's dentures in a cup of cold water, without brushing them. They would just soaked all night. So, the QMA headed down the hall to begin brushing teeth. I started on antoher cleaning project. It wasn't 10 minutes before I saw the QMA coming down the hall with a wash basin. "What'cha doin'?", I asked her. She replied with a simple, "Washing dentures". I quickly learned that she had filled a wash basin with water, placed several tablets of efferdent in the water and then proceeded down the hall to gather the dentures. There were probably 15 sets of dentures sitting in that water soaking up the goodness. She sat down at the table where I was, pulled out ONE toothbrush and some toothpaste. She was so proud she was going to get these dentures so clean and save some time by doing them all at the same time.

I was having trouble trying to process this. I couldn't believe what she had just done!! "You can't do that!", I said, "How would you like to brush your teeth with someone elses tooth brush? Besides that, do you know who all those teeth belong to?" She replied that she did not, while her head just hung. She was realizing what she had just done.

At the time this happened, dentists were not putting a name inside dentures. So, without knowing how to fix this any other way, we went and got more tooth brushes, cleaned each set of dentures individually. Afterwards we spent the rest of the night, fitting dentures, cleaning them, and refitting them.

It was no suprise to me when I learned that this particular QMA only worked in this facility for another few days, then she was gone. I have no idea where she is now, and honestly don't even remember her name. What I hope is this: where ever she works at, I hope she doesn't use the same toothbrush on every resident. I hope she brushes her teeth. And I hope all dentures have names in them, just in case.

Mistakes are made to be learned from. We all certainly learned that night. She learned about sanitation. We all learned that in healthcare, there are no real or safe shortcuts. We also learned one of the arts of denistry. . . denture fitting!

Suggestion. . . .keep up with your dental visits, keep your teeth healthy, brush three times a day, floss at least twice a day and if you do have to have dentures someday. . . make sure your name gets put in them.



  1. OH MY GOSH! I will keep my own teeth, thank you!

  2. Thank you for this interesting story. We do sometimes take things that we think are easy enough to understand for granted. Maybe she has learned from this situation and grown, and not walked away from healthcare.

  3. That is a great story! Hey quick question where did you get this layout...I love it!

  4. Shelze, I get my layouts from They are free and they are amazingly cute! Go check them out!!!
    AND, thanks for reading and committing! I love reading the comments and knowing that people have been here!