Oral hygiene care for residents with dementia: a literature review


  • Jane Chalmers MS PhD,

  • Alan Pearson MSc PhD RN DipNEd FRCNA

Jane Chalmers,
Preventive and Community Dentistry,
The University of Iowa,
College of Dentistry,
Iowa City,
E-mail: jane-chalmers@uiowa.edu


Aim.  This paper presents a literature review of oral hygiene care for adults with dementia in residential aged care facilities, including evidence for: (1) prevalence, incidence, experiences and increments of oral diseases; (2) use of assessment tools to evaluate residents’ oral health; (3) preventive oral hygiene care strategies; and (4) provision of dental treatment.

Background.  The impact of dementia on residential care is ever-increasing and regular oral hygiene care provision is challenging for cognitively impaired residents. Although an abundance of oral hygiene care recommendations for older people have been published, the supporting evidence has not been clearly delineated.

Methods.  A review was conducted of English language publications (1980–2002), using a two-step approach (keyword electronic database search, supplemented with secondary search of cited references). All 306 selected articles were critically reviewed and systematically categorized.

Results.  Evidence confirmed clinicians’ observations of poor oral health in older residents with dementia. Possible risk factors identified were: salivary dysfunction, polypharmacy, medical conditions, swallowing and dietary problems, functional dependence, oral hygiene care assistance and poor use of dental care. One comprehensive, reliable and validated oral assessment screening tool for residents with dementia had been published. Expert opinion indicated that oral assessment screening by staff and a dentist would be ideal at admission and regularly thereafter. Clinicians and researchers suggested that oral hygiene care strategies were effective in preventing oral diseases and appropriate for residents with dementia.

Conclusion.  These literature review findings supported the use of oral assessment screening tools by staff and efficacious preventive oral hygiene care strategies/products for adults with dementia in residential care facilities. Further research with this population is needed to develop and validate oral assessment tools and staff education programmes, trial preventive oral hygiene care strategies/products and trial dementia-focused behaviour management and communication strategies.