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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fun with dentures

This evening, we had five new admissions onto the ward within one hour. The nurses were bustling about sorting each patient out, so I helped by taking an inventory of each patient's property. The healthcare assistants gave me some sterile plastic tubs to label - these tubs were for keeping dentures in.

Elderly patients are very prone to losing their dentures, especially in hospital where the unfamiliar surroundings can be very disorienting to them. It is not uncommon for patients to knock their dentures behind the bedside locker during the night or wrap them neatly in tissue only to have them thrown away by overenthusiastic cleaning staff in the morning. Sometimes, patients in adjacent beds will accidentally exchange mouthpieces with each other whilst they are getting ready for breakfast.

Missing or ill-fitting dentures can mean that a patient has even greater difficulty eating the already unpalatable hospital meals, and it can be days before anyone figures out why Mrs Senile Dementia appears to have lost her appetite. Just a couple of missed meals can wreak havoc on aging bodies and minds that have very little in the way of reserves. In order to maintain nutrition and hydration, the poor woman would have to be started on a drip - an unnecessary, uncomfortable procedure that could have been avoided.

At my hospital, the nurses help each patient to remove their dentures and place them into individually labelled containers. All the dentures are then brought to a room where some cleaning fluid is added to each container so that the appliances can soak overnight. The reason why the dentures aren't kept by the bedside is that some elderly folk confuse the containers for specimen pots (argh) or cups of water (double argh). Every morning, the nurses rinse and brush the dentures carefully and restore them to their owners. And all is well with the world.

The system failed today as one of the porters, whilst contriving to manoeuvre a trolley around a tricky doorway, accidentally bumped into a healthcare assistant who was walking around the corner carrying a tray of denture pots. Disaster and Chaos ensued thus:

In slow motion, about 30 denture pots flew into the air and 30 denture pot lids spun off in different directions like little white frisbees.

And 30 pairs of false teeth went clattering (chattering?) in across the vinyl floor, in a glistening pink-and-white pearly shower, accompanied by the horrified, musical screeching of 2 healthcare assistants, 2 porters, 4 nurses and 1 doctor (who was actually choking with suppressed laughter).

Unlike spectacles or books or clothing, one cannot use a marker pen or a sticker or an iron-on label to identify false teeth.

I grinned at the headnurse (who groaned in response) and gave her the thumbs up as my bleep went off and I was called off the ward.

I think it took them about 2 hours.


Blogger Woof! said...


How did they sort them out in the end? By "fittings"? Imagine thinking you have "fitted" 19 out of the 20 jumbled pieces, but finding that the last piece doesn't fit the owner!

9:18 am  
Blogger tscd said...

woof!: Yes, it was pretty much done to 'fittings'. Yuck. It was particularly tedious because the teeth had to be thoroughly sterilised in between patients.

Fortunately, some of the dentures had distinctive features which made them easier to identify. Don't ask me what these were. To me, it was like looking at something out of 'The Blair Witch Project'.

9:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey tscd.
the dentures i make for my patients have their name labels incorporated into them.
they are, basically, almost iron on. or, 'sprinkled on' rather.
a little paper tag is placed onto the pink surface, and a little dental monomer+polymer (easily available from any dentist) is then sprinkled gently over it. just to set it in place. very easy, and it can save a lot of hassle..

great story all the same!

12:59 pm  

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