Objective: To assess personal oral health care standards among frail, elderly and infirm nursing home residents prior to developing and evaluating a health promotion intervention.
Design: Descriptive survey, interview and clinical data.
Setting: 22 randomly selected nursing homes in the Bristol area.
Method: 412 residents with denture(s) and/or natural teeth, and giving informed consent to the study were interviewed about dental attendance and current dental problems. A clinical examination assessed levels of oral and denture hygiene, denture-related stomatitis, gingivitis, calculus and root caries.
Results: Less than half the subjects (mean age 84.5 years) were ambulant. Over 70% had not seen a dentist for over 5 years, and 22% reported a current dental problem. Among denture wearers, 82% were unable to clean their dentures; staff cleaned dentures for 64%. Denture-related stomatitis affected 33%, and unhygienic dentures were worn by 95% of subjects. Among dentate subjects (mean number of teeth 11.6), 75% were unable to clean their teeth yet none received regular assistance. On average, two-thirds of each tooth surface were covered in plaque. Gingivitis was moderately severe. Calculus was present in 82% of subjects and root caries in 63% of subjects.
Conclusions: Most residents required help with oral health care but many did not receive it. Residents' levels of plaque and associated dental disease were high. Staff did not effectively perform oral health care appropriate to residents' needs. Further research to evaluate an oral health care training programme for care staff is planned.