Effect of professional oral health care on the elderly living in nursing homes

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2002 Aug;94(2):191-5. doi: 10.1067/moe.2002.123493.


Objective: We evaluated the effectiveness of professional oral health care (POHC) given by dental hygienists once a week for 24 months to 141 elderly persons needing daily care and living in 2 nursing homes.

Study design: Elderly subjects with POHC and without POHC living in 2 nursing homes were examined for 24 months to detect any fevers of 37.8 degrees C or more and the prevalence of fatal aspiration pneumonia. The numbers of Staphylococcus species and Candida albicans in swab samples from oral cavities were compared between the POHC group and the non-POHC group. The amounts of methylmercaptan exhaled in the POHC group were determined and compared with those in the non-POHC group.

Results: The prevalence of fevers of 37.8 degrees C or more in the subjects receiving POHC was significantly lower than in the non-POHC group (P < .05). We found that the ratio of fatal aspiration pneumonia in the POHC group during the 24 months was significantly lower than in the non-POHC group (P < .05). Numbers of C albicans species in samples obtained from the oral cavity after 6 months of POHC were significantly lower than those in the non-POHC group (P < .01). POHC resulted in the reduction of the presence of Staphylococcus but not to a statistically significant extent. The amounts of methylmercaptan exhaled by the POHC group were significantly less than those of the non-POHC group (P <.05).

Conclusion: This study showed that POHC administered by dental hygienists to a group of elderly patients needing daily nursing care was associated with a reduction in prevalence of fever and fatal pneumonia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Candida albicans / isolation & purification
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dental Care for Aged*
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dental Scaling
  • Female
  • Fever / classification
  • Halitosis / metabolism
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / classification
  • Staphylococcus / isolation & purification
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / analysis
  • Toothbrushing


  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • methylmercaptan