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Meet Gordon: A brilliant collaboration between a visionary dentist and One Dental

Providing oral care for elderly patients and those who have transitioned to dependent living is a specialised and extremely important task.

For Wagga Wagga dentist Dr Mark Wotherspoon, it became increasingly clear during his career that there’s a need for better and more practical training of nurses, aged care staff and home-based caretakers on everyday oral care for the elderly and those in dependent living arrangements.

Leaving behind his 30 years of private practice dentistry, Mark took the leap six years ago to bridge the gap between healthcare training and the dental needs of elderly people.

So - let’s introduce you to the brilliance that is Gordon, a specialised aged care manikin for dental training, and a successful collaboration between Mark, One Dental, Race Dental, and TelScope.

But first, let’s discover what prompted Mark to make a change

After 30 years of running a private practice and performing sophisticated dental procedures using state-of-the-art technology, Dr Mark Wotherspoon noticed many of his long-term patients stopped coming in.

“I started wondering what happened to them. The reality was that a vast majority of older patients stopped coming because it simply became too hard. The need for dental care outreach programs became more important. So, I sold off my half of the dental practice, and started Dentist To Your Door - a portable dental service. It’s a part-time service we run from the back door of a fixed practice. The aim is to have each dental practice in Australia run a similar portable dental service.”

The problem: aged care patients’ teeth simply weren’t cleaned properly

After years of visiting aged care facilities, group homes and at-home patients, it became very obvious to Mark that people’s teeth weren’t properly cleaned and that their daily oral hygiene needs weren’t met.

“I compare myself to the fire service. I go in for active treatment when needed. But the other, very important part of the job is fire prevention education and putting in firebreaks, cleaning gutters and so on. It’s very clear that these preventative measures are extremely important.”

So, with this in mind, Mark initiated a plan to ensure that preventative measures are in place for daily oral hygiene for older people, whether they are living in aged care facilities, group homes or at home. This meant better dental education for aged care staff, nursing students, hospital staff, mobile staff and informal carers like loved ones and families.

“The question was, how do we educate non-dental people to look into someone’s mouth, understand what they’re looking at, and how to take an image to send off to a dental professional for further assessment? How would they know the right way to do proper denture cleaning and to confidently brush someone else’s teeth? How would they understand the different kinds of toothpastes and mouthwashes and the appropriate uses for particular patients?”

A collaboration for a hands-on teaching experience

It was a collaboration of dreams.

Mark came to us at One Dental with his vision to create an aged care specific manikin that student nurses and aged care workers could use in their training.

At One Dental, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to support Mark in his goal by creating a manikin with a jaw structure that mimics that of an elderly person.

Race Dental further supported the initiative by creating different sets of dentures that interchangeably fit into the specialised aged care manikin.

Jennifer Holland created the accompanying TelScope, which allows carers to capture and send images of a person’s teeth to determine the need for further dental intervention.

“I named the manikin Gordon, after my dear father… who is still going strong at 92 years of age,” says Mark.

Gordon and the five-step training program

Now, Mark uses Gordon to perform a five-step workshop for TAFE students, aged care staff and home carers.

  1. Use Gordon to teach people how to effectively look into someone’s mouth, and also use the TelScope effectively.
  2. Next, focus on dentures: how to remove and replace dentures, clean them, which products to use, how to follow the appropriate therapeutic guidelines and how to store dentures overnight.
  3. The second Gordon version is used to teach how to effectively brush someone else’s teeth, using the life-like aged care specific jaws, with teeth missing and dentures attached.
  4. Teach students how to brush their own teeth effectively through clear oral hygiene instructions. If students have a better understanding of their own oral cleaning routine, they are more likely to deliver a higher level of dental care to patients, based on the iTOP program (individually tailored oral prophylaxis - Curaprox Australia). In short: touch to teach.
  5. Gordon version three makes his appearance for students and carers to practise tending to palliative care patients’ dental needs.

The future is in continuous collaboration

While Mark has been pouring his energy into educating the next generation of aged care workers, he also focused on more advanced courses for healthcare workers at two large healthcare facilities in Randwick, Sydney.

“Recently, at a workshop event, we had care staff, nursing staff, speech pathologists, dieticians and dental experts present… and, of course, we delivered Project Gordon in a meaningful, hands-on training method. We’ve had very positive feedback from students and professionals. In receiving practical training, they feel confident to apply their new skills in their work,” says Mark.

At One Dental, we’re honoured and privileged to have partnered with the visionary and passionate Dr Mark Wotherspoon on this initiative that will undoubtedly increase the quality of life for aged care and care dependent patients.

Get in touch with us to find out more about upcoming collaborations, or to discuss your dental initiative.

View our aged care manikin kit here.

Image below: Dr Mark Wotherspoon, Issy Loetscher (Curaprox Australia) and Clare Collins (Product Specialist, Dr Mark’s HyGenie)

Meet Gordon: A brilliant collaboration between a visionary dentist and One Dental