Objective: To determine practices and perceived access barriers (facility resources, attitudes and professional dental involvement) related to oral health by surveying directors of nursing (DONs) in Michigan nursing homes (NHs).
Background: DONs are crucial to NH practice and policy, so understanding their perceptions of oral health care is vital.
Methods: A 27-item questionnaire exploring aspects of oral health was mailed to all 402 Michigan NH. Descriptive statistics were calculated for response items.
Results: Facility response rate was 32% (n = 129). Sixty-three per cent of facilities had a written dental care plan primarily co-ordinated by nursing staff and social workers. Stationary dental equipment was available in 3% of facilities. Thirty-eight per cent stated an examination by a dentist was provided to new residents. Seventy-five per cent of residents identified as needing dental treatment were likely to receive it. Of the 28% of residents receiving dental treatment beyond an examination in the past year, 28% received emergent care. Over 50% of responding DONs indicated satisfaction with how oral hygiene needs were met in their facilities. The greatest perceived barriers were willingness of general and specialty dentists to treat residents at the nursing facility and/or their private offices as well as financial concerns of the resident and/or family. Generally, greater resources were available in urban facilities, but substantial barriers to care were uniformly perceived.
Conclusion: Oral health policies and practices within Michigan NH vary, as measured by resources, attitudes, and the availability of professional care. Dental involvement in policy creation, provision of consultation, and service is limited.