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Tailored prevention improves dental health among elderly

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The oral healthcare of elderly patients receiving care at home can be improved significantly by taking a bespoke approach to prevention, according to Finnish researchers.

Their study found that introducing a tailored preventive oral health intervention can significantly improve the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among older patients receiving home care.

“The intervention significantly reduced the number of plaque covered teeth”

Study authors

In addition, functional ability and cognitive function were strongly associated with better oral hygiene, according to the new study from the University of Eastern Finland.

The study investigated the impact of a six-month oral health and nutrition intervention among home care clients aged 75 years or older.

Researchers carried out an interview and an oral clinical examination among an intervention group of 151 participants and a control group of 118 participants.

The intervention group also received a tailored intervention of oral and denture hygiene, in which they were advised to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and to clean interdental spaces, dentures and oral mucosa daily.

Both groups were re-interviewed and re-examined after six months, with the intervention found to have significantly reduced the number of plaque covered teeth and improved denture hygiene.

The reduction in the number of plaque covered teeth was associated with functional ability and cognitive function, added the researchers.

Despite the positive effect, nearly half of the teeth in the intervention group still had plaque even after the intervention, noted the study authors.

However, they highlighted that oral health habits in the control group deteriorated during the six-month follow-up.

“Multiple approaches based on individual needs are required to improve the oral health of vulnerable older adults”

Study authors

The researchers noted that oral health markedly affected the quality of life, nutrition and general health in older adults.

Cognitive impairment and functional dependency often lead to compromised daily oral hygiene, they said.

They stated that it was the responsibility of oral care personnel to plan an individualised and realistic preventive regime for elderly home care clients.

For clients who need daily help with oral hygiene procedures, support in oral hygiene should be incorporated into routine care plans, said the researchers.

They stated: “Multiple approaches based on individual needs are required to improve the oral health of vulnerable older adults, including integrating dental preventive care into [the] daily care plan carried out by home care nurses.”

It forms part of a larger study, called NutOrMed (optimising nutrition, oral health and medication for older home care clients), with the latest findings published in the journal Age and Ageing.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I would like to thank The Nursing Times and Steve Ford for publishing reports such as this , as I will pass on to our Group to improve the Care of our Residents (and Staff)

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