Caries experience in existing and new nursing home residents in Adelaide, Australia


Dr Jane Chalmers Senior Research Fellow Dental School Adelaide University Adelaide, SA 5005 Australia Tel: (08)8303 4048 Fax: (08)8303 4858 e-mail:


Objectives: The Adelaide Dental Study of Nursing Homes was instigated to provide comprehensive information concerning oral disease experience, incidence and increments in a random sample of those older South Australians residing in Adelaide nursing homes.

Methods: This paper presents caries experience results for existing and new nursing home residents, and caries incidence and increments for existing residents, from dental inspections conducted at the baseline and one-year data collections.

Results: The residents in this study were very functionally dependent, medically compromised, cognitively impaired and behaviourally difficult older adults, the great majority of whom had moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Residents gave their carers many complex and challenging behavioural problems during oral hygiene care provision. Existing and new residents had similar dental history, oral hygiene, and socio-detnographic characteristics, and similar cognitive, medical, functional, and nutritional status. Oral disease experience was high in both existing and new residents. There were no significant differences between existing and new residents for their dentate status, tooth status, coronal caries experience, or root caries experience, with the exceptions that new residents had significantly greater mean number of teeth, more filled coronal and root surfaces, and also new residents had significantly fewer decayed retained roots. Large numbers of tooth surfaces were covered in plaque and debris that negated more precise assessment of caries. The existing residents had caries increments on both coronal (2.5 surfaces) and root surfaces (1.0 surfaces) over the one-year period. Coronal caries incidence was 64% and root caries incidence was 49% of existing residents.

Conclusions: Oral disease experience was high in both existing and new residents. There were few significant differences between existing and new residents’ oral health status. New residents were being admitted to nursing homes with a compromised oral health status. Coronal and root caries increments and incidence were high for existing residents over the one-year period.