Improving the oral health of frail and functionally dependent elderly

A. Lewis, J. Wallace, A. Deutsch, P. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The Australian Government endorsed a national evidence based oral health model when it introduced the first Nursing Home Oral and Dental Health Plan in 2010. Called Better Oral Health in Residential Care, it promotes a multidisciplinary approach with doctors, nurses, care workers and dental professionals sharing responsibility for the four key processes of oral health screening, oral health care planning, daily oral hygiene and access to dental treatment. Frail and dependent residents are most conveniently treated on-site, hence an aged care/dental partnership is encouraged to facilitate the use of portable dental equipment in the delivery of dental care. Currently, few dentists provide services to residential aged care facilities (RACFs), with loss of clinical time in practice, difficulty in providing clinical care in a non-dental environment and lack of referral pathways from the RACFs to the dentists contributing to the problem. The need to establish a model of care involving dental hygienists/oral health therapists in RACFs has merit. Minimal intervention treatment using glass ionomer cement (GIC) and silver fluoride is ideal in aged care. However, GIC has limitation in dry mouths with low pH caused by polypharmacy or disease. Palliative and definitive treatment techniques need to be individualized with consideration of a patient's ability to maintain their own mouths as well as their mental and physical competence. The range of products available to address the oral diseases common to the frail elderly is growing. The oral health care provider is required to establish a preventive regime that is tailored to the patient's needs, is realistic and under revision as the patient's needs change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Dental Journal
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Frail elderly
  • functionally dependent elderly
  • preventive strategies
  • residential aged care
  • restorative approaches


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