Dental care of frail older people and those caring for them

J Clin Nurs. 2010 Jul;19(13-14):1882-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.02996.x. Epub 2010 Apr 7.


Aims and objectives: To describe oral health utilisation patterns of frail older people and contrast these with attitudes and utilisation patterns of nursing staff who are caring for them.

Background: In view of widespread poor oral health of frail older people in long-term care, staff attitudes have been identified as an area of interest. In addition to data on attitudes, the current study contributes a description of aspects of oral health related behaviour of staff and clients.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: Structured interviews of a random selection of long-term care staff (n=320) and frail older people (n=172), within the two groups of home-care services (HCS) and long-term care facilities (LTCF).

Results: Of staff members, 55·3% attach the same importance to their own oral health compared to that of clients and 35·7% regard their own oral health as more important; 98·4% of staff attended two or more dental examinations per year; 3·4% of HCS and 37·1% of LTCF routinely arranged oral examinations. In 81·4% HCS and in 34·4% of LTCF, there was no routine dental service available. Patterns of oral health service attendance greatly differ between staff and clients.

Conclusion: The oral health awareness of the majority of long-term care staff did not translate into adequate oral health care for clients. A gap exists between attitudes supportive of oral health, adequate and prevention driven own oral health related behaviour of staff and actual oral health care delivered to clients.

Relevance to clinical practice: To bridge the gap identified, a concept is suggested for nursing educators and managers of LTCF targeting educational measures while taking into account individual attitudes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Care / nursing*
  • Education, Nursing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff*
  • Oral Health