Brushing Up on Mouth Care in Long-Term Care

August 1, 2012

An interdisciplinary research team at Dalhousie University has published its final report summarizing the results of its Brushing Up on Mouth Care project, an oral care action plan for dependent older adults living in long-term care (LTC) facilities.

Researchers partnered with 3 LTC facilities in rural Nova Scotia to examine what factors influence the delivery of oral health care for residents living in these facilities. This information guided the development and implementation of an oral health care program that had many positive outcomes, including improved efficiency in delivering daily mouth care; increased awareness of the importance of oral health among care providers, managers, and administrators; and adoption of formalized oral health assessments and care planning into practice.

The research collaboration was led by Dr. Mary McNally, associate professor at Dalhousie University’s faculty of dentistry, acting scientific director of the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre and JCDA associate editor. “For those who depend on others for their everyday needs, mouth care is often inadequate,” said Dr. McNally. “We wanted to find out what it would take to improve the delivery of mouth care for those who are dependent on others for care, and for those who provide the care.”

Working directly with front-line care providers, the project team developed comprehensive, hands-on educational resources to assist with daily oral care. These resources, which are all available through the Brushing Up on Mouth Care open access website, include toolkits and care cards; daily and annual oral health assessment forms; posters and information sheets (on topics such as dementia and oral care, oral swabs, and taste and swallowing disorders). Education sessions delivered by the project team to LTC facility staff were developed into 5 educational videos. These videos cover oral health basics, brushing techniques and oral health products, considerations for dementia, considerations for palliative care, and oral health assessment. Current initiatives include expanding these resources for uptake in home care and for training of care staff.

Improving access to care for seniors, particularly those living in LTC facilities, is one of CDA’s priorities. Minimum standards for ensuring adequate daily mouth care for residents in LTC facilities are described in a CDA position statement. Research studies—like the one conducted by Dr. McNally’s team—that can identify the key factors influencing the delivery of oral care in LTC facilities and develop tools to facilitate this work are an important step towards achieving these standards.

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