Abstract

Objectives

The purpose of this study was to explore oral health experiences from the perspective of older adults’ living in community dwellings. The two objectives of this study were to identify facilitators and barriers to oral health care, and to determine how utilization of oral health services compares to utilization of other healthcare services.

Methodology

An interpretive descriptive methodology was employed with a purposive sample of 12 adults, aged 70 years or older. The inclusion criterion was English-speaking seniors residing in community dwellings. Community dwellings were defined as any housing outside of long-term care or other supportive living facilities. Semi-structured interviews were 30–80 min, audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Three researchers participated in the comparative analysis process to develop codes, generate categories, interpret patterns and construct themes.

Results

Three central themes surfacing from the data were as follows: life course influences on oral health, transparency in delivery of oral health services and interrelationships between oral health and overall health.

Conclusions

Older adults in this study emphasized the value of establishing collaborative and trusting relationships between oral health practitioners and older adults. Oral health practitioners should be clear and transparent when communicating information about oral health costs and be cognizant of different circumstances from childhood to older adulthood that inhibit or promote routine utilization of oral health services. Including oral health services as part of interdisciplinary care teams could help promote understandings of the reciprocal relationship between oral health and general health and improve oral health status for older adults.

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