Effectiveness of professional oral health care intervention on the oral health of residents with dementia in residential aged care facilities: a systematic review protocol.

Joanna Jin Yi Mohammadi, Kay Franks, Sonia Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


REVIEW QUESTION/OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review is to critically appraise and synthesize evidence on the effectiveness of professional oral health care intervention on the oral health of aged care residents with dementia.More specifically the objectives are to identify the efficacy of professional oral health care interventions on general oral health, the presence of plaque and the number of decayed or missing teeth.

BACKGROUND: Dementia poses a significant challenge for health and social policy in Australia. The quality of life of individuals, their families and friends is impacted by dementia. Older people with dementia often have other health comorbidities resulting in the need for a higher level of care. From 2009 to 2010, 53% of permanent residents in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) had dementia on admission. Older Australians are retaining more of their natural teeth, therefore residents entering RACFs will have more of their natural teeth and require complex dental work than they did in previous generations. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that more than half the residents in RACFs are now partially dentate with an average of 12 teeth each. Furthermore, coronal and root caries are significant problems, especially in older Australians who are cognitively impaired.Residents in aged care facilities frequently have poor oral health and hygiene with moderate to high levels of oral disease and overall dental neglect. This is reinforced by aged care staff who acknowledge that the demands of feeding, toileting and behavioral issues amongst residents often take precedence over oral health care regimens. Current literature shows that there is a general reluctance on the part of aged care staff to prioritize oral care due to limited knowledge as well as existing psychological barriers to working on another person's mouth. Although staff routinely deal with residents' urinary and faecal incontinence, deep psychological barriers exist when working on someone's mouth due to their own personal values of oral health or their views that residents should be looking after their own teeth or dentures. Furthermore, residents with behavioral issues associated with dementia frequently have their oral hygiene neglected as they may be resistant and violent towards receiving oral care from aged care staff. Studies have shown that residents with dementia will often refuse to open their mouth or partake in oral hygiene care by aged care staff. The aged care staff in return often do not pursue an oral care regimen for these "difficult" residents, perpetuating the cycle of oral neglect and resultant disease.Dental hygienists are qualified oral health professionals who are specifically trained to develop individualized oral health care plans and preventative programs to reduce oral health disease in the community. Residents with dementia in aged care facilities have the right to live their lives comfortably and free of oral discomfort or pain. A Victorian study conducted by Hopcraft et al. investigated the ability of a dental hygienist to undertake a dental examination/screening for residents in aged care facilities, to develop a preventative and periodontal treatment plan and to refer patients appropriately to a dentist. Results from this study demonstrated that there was an excellent agreement between the dentist and dental hygienist regarding the decision to refer residents to a dentist for treatment, demonstrating high sensitivity (99.6%) and high specificity (82.9%). Residents from 31 Victorian RACFs (n=510) were examined by a single experienced dental epidemiologist and one of four dental hygienists using a simple mouth mirror and probe. Hopcraft et al. concluded that hygienists should be utilized more widely in providing holistic oral health care to residents in aged care facilities.Recently, Lewis et al. discussed the need to develop models of care to improve access to dental care for frail and functionally dependent elderly people in aged care facilities, with the model of care involving dental hygienists/oral health therapists having merit.The concept of professional oral care involves an oral health professional such as a dental hygienist or oral health therapist supervising or assisting residents with their oral care. Oral care involves the mechanical removal of plaque and food debris using a toothbrush, interproximal brush and floss.In 2014, Morino et al. explored the efficacy of short term professional oral care from dental hygienists once a week after breakfast for one month. In this study, the dental hygienists did not perform dental scaling but brushed subjects' teeth using a toothbrush and interdental brush. Dental plaque scores decreased significantly (Fisher's two-tailed tests, p<0.05) in the professional oral health intervention group. Interestingly, the positive effects of this short term intervention were sustained for the following three months (Wilcoxon test, p<0.05).A pilot study in Arkansas was conducted by Amerine et al. and utilized the dental hygienist as the "oral health champion" in the residential aged care facility using the Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT) and Geriatric Oral Health Assessment Index (GOHAI) scores to measure oral health. The results from this study showed improvements in three measured areas (tongue health, denture status and oral cleanliness) in the dental hygiene champion group. These findings suggest that the presence of a dental hygiene champion in long term care facilities may positively impact the oral health of residents requiring assistance with their oral care. However, the authors noted further research in this concept is required.Van Der Putten GJ et al. explored the effectiveness of a supervised implementation of an oral health care guideline in care homes. In each ward of the care homes, a nurse who acted as the ward oral health care organiser (WOO) was appointed. The dental hygienist and an investigator would attend the RACFs every six weeks to support them. The dental hygienist would train the WOO, and the WOO would train the ward nurses and nurse assistants. Participants were allocated into an intervention or a control group. The intervention group received supervised oral care. Statistically significant differences in mean dental and denture plaque scores at six months in both groups occurred (student t-test, p < 0.0001). This research study implemented an intervention using the train-the-trainer approach and although improvements in dental and denture plaque scores were seen in the six-month period, the long-term effects of this intervention are unknown. Further studies exploring the long-term effects of staff training on oral health education are needed as well as ongoing staff training in aged care facilities.A systematic review on oral health and aspiration pneumonia conducted by Vander Maarel-Wierink et al. has suggested that, in the frail elderly, the best intervention to reduce the incidence of aspiration pneumonia is brushing of teeth after each meal, cleaning dentures once a day, and receiving professional oral health care once a week.The need to advocate for a new model of geriatric dentistry is critical. A holistic multi-disciplinary approach to health care for residents entering aged care homes is imperative to achieve better oral health and comfort for residents, especially with Australia's ageing dentate population. A dental examination and assessment on admission to a RACF should be conducted by a Registered Nurse (RN), followed by an oral health professional such as a dentist, dental hygienist or oral health therapist. Current practice in the majority of Australian government funded nursing homes is that the RN or the Assistant in Nursing (AIN) conduct the oral health assessment as part of the aged care funding instrument (ACFI). Ongoing oral health care supported by an oral health professional is important throughout the individual's residency and eventual palliation whilst in an aged care facility.No systematic reviews conducted on the impact of professional oral care on the oral health of elderly people living in residential aged care facilities could be located, despite extensive searching of Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Trials and Dentistry & Oral Sciences Source (DOSS) databases. A JBI systematic review was conducted in 2004, titled, "Oral hygiene care for adults with dementia in residential aged care facilities"; however, this review examined the prevalence, incidence and increments of oral diseases; the use of assessment tools to evaluate oral health; preventative oral hygiene care strategies; and the provision of dental treatment and so had a different clinical focus. Twenty studies were included for analysis in the review conducted by Weening-Verbree et al, The studies in this review addressed oral health knowledge of aged care staff and mostly were conducted as an educational session delivered by dental hygienists or dentists.Overall, the current evidence available on interventions to improve oral health for residents living in aged care facilities is inadequate and should be explored further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-122
Number of pages13
JournalJBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • aged care home
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognitive impairment
  • dentist
  • oral health care


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