• geriatric dentistry;
  • aged;
  • oral hygiene;
  • motor skills

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether the oral hygiene of institutionalized older people differs significantly between groups of participants with different degrees of hand function.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Residents of a long-term institution of Porto Alegre, Brazil.

PARTICIPANTS: Forty-nine institutionalized older people. Subjects restricted to bed or with Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores less than 15 were excluded.

MEASUREMENTS: Dental (Silness and Löe Index) and denture plaque (Modified Ambjornsen Plaque Index) scores were assessed as a measure of oral hygiene. Hand functions were assessed using the Jebsen-Taylor and the Purdue pegboard tests. Participants were grouped according to their levels of hand function (regarded as good if test values were at the median or higher in the case of Purdue pegboard test and below the median in the case of Jebsen-Taylor test). Existence of differences between groups was checked using univariate analysis of variance, adjusting for age, sex and cognitive status according to MMSE.

RESULTS: Dentate participants with poor hand function according to the Dominant Hand Purdue test harbored significantly more dental plaque after adjustment for age, sex, and cognitive status. Complete denture wearers with poor hand function according to the Dominant Hand and Sum of Three Steps Purdue tests and the total Jebsen-Taylor test also had significantly more denture plaque after adjustment.

CONCLUSION: The results support the notion that hand function plays a central role in oral hygiene, mainly removal of dental and denture plaque, in institutionalized older people.