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Keywords:

  • oral hygiene;
  • oral health;
  • aged care;
  • dementia

Executive summary

Objective  The objective of this systematic review was to report on the best available evidence relating to oral hygiene for adults with dementia in residential aged care facilities, including:

  • documenting the prevalence and incidence, as well as the experiences and increments, of oral diseases and conditions
  • the use of assessment tools by carers to evaluate oral health
  • oral hygiene care strategies to prevent oral diseases and conditions
  • the provision of dental treatment and the ongoing management of oral diseases and conditions.

Inclusion criteria  This review considered any randomised or non-randomised controlled studies, cohort studies, case-control studies, multiple time series studies, uncontrolled studies, descriptive studies and opinions of respected authorities (including theses and other publications) related to residents with dementia living in residential aged care facilities in Australia and overseas; community-dwelling adults with dementia; and special needs adult populations (for preventive oral hygiene care strategies and interventions).

The review considered studies and publications designed to:

  • 1
    quantify the oral health status of older adults living in residential aged care facilities;
  • 2
    quantify the oral health status of adults with dementia living in the community and in residential aged care facilities;
  • 3
    evaluate tools used to assess the oral health of residents by staff and carers working in residential aged care facilities;
  • 4
    evaluate preventive oral hygiene care strategies and interventions used in special needs adult populations (including adults with dementia); and
  • 5
    evaluate oral health care training and oral hygiene care provision, staff and carers working in residential aged care facilities.

Dental outcome measures of interest were those relating to the prevalence, incidence, experiences and increments of oral diseases and conditions including: denture problems, coronal and root caries, periodontal diseases (plaque accumulation, gingivitis, loss-of-attachment), oral mucosal conditions, xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction, tooth loss, difficulty chewing, behavioural problems and pain/discomfort. Related characteristics and outcomes of interest included: medical conditions, medications, cognitive status, functional status, nutritional status and sociodemographics.

Search strategy  The aim of the search was to locate relevant English-language studies and publications appearing between 1980 and 2002. The search utilised a two-step approach, involving an initial search of electronic databases using combinations of key words followed by a second extensive search carried out using the identified key words. This was supplemented with a secondary search of the references cited in the identified studies. Electronic database searched were: Cinahl, Embase, Psycinfo, Medline and Current Contents.

Methodological quality  All selected studies were critically appraised by two reviewers prior to inclusion in the review.

Results  In regards to relevance, incidence, experiences, and increments of oral diseases and conditions, possible risk factors identified included: saliva dysfunction, polypharmacy, comorbid medical conditions, swallowing and dietary problems, increased functional dependence, need for assistance with oral hygiene care, and poor access and utilisation of dental care.

Evidence on the use of assessment tools by carers to evaluate residents’ oral health showed that successful assessment of residents with and without dementia by nursing staff requires appropriate staff training by a dental professional. Coupled with appropriate training, an oral assessment screening tool designed for residents with dementia has been successfully used by nursing and care staff to identify residents requiring further review by dental professionals. Expert opinion in the field indicates that oral assessment screenings by a staff member and then by a dentist would ideally be undertaken upon admission to a facility, and regularly thereafter by staff and/or dentists as required.

Clinicians and researchers suggested that oral hygiene care strategies to prevent oral diseases and conditions were found to be effective in preventing oral diseases, and thus are relevant for use in the resident with dementia.

In regards to the provision of dental treatment and ongoing management of oral diseases and conditions, the use of adjunctive and preventive aids were found to be effective when introduced in conjunction with a staff training program:

Expert opinion suggests that behaviour management techniques will increase the potential of performing oral hygiene care interventions.

Conclusions  This review suggests that the training of staff in the form of a comprehensive practically oriented program addressing areas such as oral diseases, oral screening assessment, and hands-on demonstration of oral hygiene techniques and products is likely to have a positive impact on the management of oral hygiene care within residential aged care facilities. The review also identified that regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, use of therapeutic fluoride products and application of therapeutic chlorhexidine gluconate products are validated by research as effective for the general population and some populations with special needs.