• oral hygiene;
  • dependency;
  • institutionalised of elderly people;
  • nursing staff

Objective:  The aim of this cross-sectional study was to assess the level of oral hygiene in elderly people living in long-term care institutions and to investigate the relationship between institutional and individual characteristics, and the observed oral cleanliness.

Materials and methods:  Clinical outcome variables, denture plaque and dental plaque were gathered from 359 older people (14%) living in 19 nursing homes. Additional data were collected by a questionnaire filled out by all health care workers employed in the nursing homes.

Results:  Only 128 (36%) residents had teeth present in one or both dental arches. About half of the residents (47%) wore complete dentures. The mean dental plaque score was 2.17 (maximum possible score = 3) and the mean denture plaque score was 2.13 (maximum possible score = 4). Significantly more plaque was observed on the mucosal surface of the denture with a mean plaque score of 2.33 vs. 1.93 on the buccal surface (p < 0.001). In the multiple analyses only the degree of dependency on an individual level was found to be significantly correlated with the outcome dental plaque (odds ratio: 3.09) and only the management of the institution with denture plaque (odds ratio: 0.43).

Conclusion:  Oral hygiene was poor, both for dentures and remaining teeth in residents in long-term care institutions and only the degree of dependency of the residents and the management of the institutions was associated with the presence of dental plaque and denture plaque respectively.