In a recent study, researchers discovered that a tailored preventive oral health intervention with elderly home care clients showed significant improved cleanliness or teeth and dentures. This fact alone is not all that surprising, but in addition, scientists found that functional ability and cognitive function were strongly associated with better oral hygiene. According to an article from Science Daily, the study, from the University of Eastern Finland, is part NutOrMed, a larger intervention study about optimising nutrition, oral health and medication for older home care clients.
As part of the smaller study, an interview and an oral clinical examination were completed in both the intervention group (151 participants) and the control group (118 participants). The average age of the intervention group was 84 years, and 85 in the control group. The intervention group was given a tailored intervention of oral and denture hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and daily interdental cleaning of dentures and oral mucosa.
Both groups were re-interviewed and re-examined after six months. Those in the intervention group showed significant reduction in the number of plaque covered teeth and improved denture hygiene. Additionally, the reduction in plaque was associated with functional ability and cognitive function. For those in the control group, oral health habits deteriorated during the 6-month follow-up, with the intervention.
The researchers were able to conclude that “oral health markedly affects the quality of life, nutrition and general health in older adults. Cognitive impairment and functional dependency often lead to compromised daily oral hygiene.” This discovery means it’s even more important that oral care personnel work closely with patients to create an individualized and realistic preventive dental hygiene routine. For those in nursing home settings who need daily help, support in oral hygiene should be included into the daily care plan implemented by nurses.