Background: The Australian population is ageing, and a growing proportion of elderly Australians are now living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). These residents are at high risk of developing dental diseases, have more teeth present now than at any time in the past 50 years and often have difficulty maintaining adequate oral hygiene. Traditionally, dental service provision has been problematic and sporadic for these residents.
Methods: A postal survey of a random sample of Victorian general dentists and Directors of Nursing (DONs) of Victorian RACFs was undertaken in 2006 to ascertain the participation of dentists in the provision of dental care and to identify factors impacting on the organization and provision of dental care for residents.
Results: The response rate for dentists was 57.3 per cent, and for DONs 64.4 per cent. Half of the dentists reported that they had provided care to residents of aged care facilities in the past 12 months, and they spent an average of one hour per month providing care. Overall, dentists were concerned with their level of undergraduate education and training in various aspects of dentistry for residents of aged care facilities. DONs reported significant difficulty obtaining adequate dental care for their residents. Common problems identified by both dentists and DONs included a preference for dentists to treat residents in their own practice, dentists not willing to go to RACFs and a lack of portable dental equipment for dentists to use.
Conclusions: There were low levels of interest and participation from Victorian dentists in providing dental care for residents of aged care facilities. Dentists had a strong preference for treating patients at their own practice, and there were a number of significant barriers that appeared to impact on the provision of dental care in RACFs.