Dental- and nursing care collaborations in Sweden – A way to support nursing staff in oral hygiene care for older people

Abstract: Background: Oral health is an integral part of the general health and quality of life. Yet oral health among older people requiring nursing care is often poor. Despite this group’s frequent contact with health care services, they tend to lose contact with dental care. In nursing care, nursing staff are tasked to assist with oral hygiene care, but this has become more demanding as many older people retain more teeth or have advanced prosthetic constructions. Previous research in the field emphasised the need of collaboration between dental- and nursing care to support the nursing staff in this task. However, there is a lack of evidence regarding the effects of these collaborations.Aim: The overall aim of the thesis is to examine two oral health programmes used within nursing care with different design regarding support from and collaboration with dental care.Methods: Quantitative research methods was used. The data in Study I comes from an oral health assessments guide (ROAG-J) performed by nursing staff in a national health register. Oral health, assessed at two occasions from older people with nursing care, were used. Study II was a controlled intervention study performed at a nursing home. The intervention involved individual coaching of nursing staff in oral hygiene care by dental hygienist for four hours per week at the ward for a period of three months. Oral assessments of older people were performed by dental hygienists and questionnaires to nursing home staff were used.Result: In Study I, 667 individuals aged 65 years or older, receiving nursing care services and assessed using ROAG-J between November 2011 and March 2014 were included. No statistically significant difference in any of the oral health variables was found between the first and subsequent assessments. At the first assessments, less than one third of participants had oral health problems. At the first assessment, status of the tongue differed in men and women (p < .01); at the subsequent assessment, gender differences were found in voice (p < .05), mucous membranes (p < .003), tongue (p < .01), and saliva (p < .006).In Study II, 33 nursing staff and 48 residents participated at the baseline measurement and 22 and 32 respectively at the 9-month follow-up. The nursing staff changed in knowledge and attitudes related to gum disease, approximal cleaning, usage of fluoride and the likelihood that older persons would express the need for oral health support. The most frequently reported oral health problems among the residents pertained to teeth and gums. The residents relatively high level of oral health was stable during the study period.Conclusions: The participants in the oral health programmes were able to maintain an acceptable level of oral health during the study periods although health was likely to decline. The nursing staff maintained a high level of knowledge and attitudes about oral health. However, there seems to be a discrepancy regarding the prevalence of oral health problems among older people. A collaboration between dental- and nursing care providers indicates a positive influence on providing oral hygiene care.

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