Improving the oral health of older people in long-term residential care: a review of the literature

International Journal of Older People Nursing
Published Online: 5 Feb 2009

Karen Miegel RN and Tracey Wachtel RN, MN, MRCNA Grad Cert HD Nursing
Graduate Registered Nurse, Riverland Regional Health Services, Berri, SA, AustraliaLecturer in Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Flinders University Renmark Campus, Renmark, SA, Australia


Background. Unrefutable evidence now links poor oral health with the development of preventable systemic illnesses and debilitating conditions that threaten quality of life and life itself. This is especially significant for an increasing older population who are dependent on others for care.

Aims and objectives. The majority of studies analysing the oral health of older dependent people in long-term residential care have been undertaken by dental professionals. This critical literature review examines the issue from a nursing perspective because nursing care providers have a fundamental role in daily oral health provision for dependent residents.

Conclusions. Multiple barriers were found to negatively impact on daily oral healthcare provision, including lack of care provider education, oral health values, availability of resources, implementation of supportive policies, documentation and oral health assessment tools.

Relevance to clinical practice. The nursing profession, at all levels, must become pro-active in removing financial, political and workforce barriers that impact negatively on oral health outcomes. A multi-faceted approach is required to address these barriers, including development and implementation of oral health education programmes, assessment screening tools, care plans, documentation, supply of oral hygiene aids and the appointment of oral care 'champions'.


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