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Finnish researchers have found that personalised preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among the elderly. (Photograph: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Mar 8, 2017 | News Europe

Individualised approach needed to improve oral health of home care patients

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JOENSUU, Finland: A study at the University of Eastern Finland has investigated how tailored preventive oral health care interventions affect oral health and quality of life among elderly home care patients. They found that, although the measures improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures, consequently enhancing functional ability and cognitive function, the number of teeth with plaque remained high, even after the intervention.

Be it owing to an increased dependency on supportive care or deteriorating health status in general, poor oral health is common among the elderly and prevalent especially in home care patients. Furthermore, cognitive impairment often increases the risk of compromised oral hygiene in the elderly. Aiming to investigate the effectiveness of a tailored preventative oral health intervention, the Finnish researchers investigated how twice-daily toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste and additional daily cleaning of interdental spaces, dentures and the oral mucosa influenced oral health in a group of 151 home care clients aged 75 and older.

Prior to the intervention, an interview and oral clinical examination were carried out in the intervention group and in the control group, which consisted of 118 participants. Both groups were again interviewed and examined after a six-month intervention period.

The results showed that tailored oral health measures improved denture hygiene and significantly reduced the number of plaque-covered teeth. In the control group, by contrast, oral health deteriorated during the six-month follow-up. While functional ability and cognitive function were significantly associated with better oral hygiene in the study group, the number of teeth with plaque remained high, even after the intervention, according to the researchers.

The findings suggest that successful approaches to improving the oral health of vulnerable older adults need to be based on individual needs. In order to ensure this, it should be the responsibility of oral care staff to plan and implement an individualised and realistic preventive regime for their elderly patients, the researchers concluded.

The study was part of a larger intervention study called NutOrMed—optimising nutrition, oral health and medication for older home care clients—which began in November 2012. The results were published on 14 February 2017 in the Age and Ageing journal in an article titled “Preventive oral health intervention among old home care clients”.

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