Caring for oral health in Australian residential care


Within the increasing older Australian population, there is a significant group at very high risk for developing complex oral diseases and dental problems—institutionalised older adults in Australian residential care facilities. There are abundant general health, functional, cognitive, social and financial problems among this group of high-risk older adults. These problems are associated not only with their development of oral diseases, such as dental caries, but with the many barriers they encounter to accessing adequate dental care. In the Australian residential aged care community, it is the carers who play an essential role in the delivery of oral hygiene care and the maintenance of residents’ oral health. Better integration of carers into oral hygiene care delivery and the timely identification of oral health problems are essential in improving residents’ access to and equity in oral health.

This study investigated the role of carers in Australian residential care facilities in maintaining adequate oral health for residents, and improving their timely referral and access to dental professionals. Three aspects of best practice were used in this research. The first was to assist participating facilities to develop comprehensive and appropriate oral and dental care policies and procedures, in accordance with Commonwealth Residential Aged Care Standards. The second was to train carers to use an Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT), a modified version of the Kayser-Jones Brief Oral Health Status Examination (BOHSE) (Kayser-Jones et al. 1995). The study then assessed the reliability and validity of carers’ use of the tool in monitoring and assessing residents’ oral health. The third was to use an Oral Hygiene Care Plan (OHCP) developed as part of an evidence-based oral health protocol for carers of dependent older adults (Blanco & Chalmers 2001).

Jane M Chalmers
Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The University of Iowa, USA

A John Spencer
Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health
The University of Adelaide, South Australia

Knute D Carter
College of Public Health
The University of Iowa

Peter L King
Hunter Health Service
New South Wales

Clive Wright
Centre for Oral Health Strategy, NSW Health
New South Wales

ISSN 1321-0254
ISBN 978 1 74024 884 6
AIHW Cat. No. DEN 193
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