The aim of this study was to determine whether a qualified dental hygienist could improve oral health outcomes for residents living in residential aged care facilities on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia.
A qualified dental hygienist undertook a 24-week oral hygiene intervention in five residential aged care facilities to test the Senior Smiles, oral health model of care. The facilities were invited to take part in the research, which was funded by a grant from NSW Medicare Local, Erina. Residents were asked to consent to having oral health risk assessments, oral healthcare plans and to receiving referrals for treatment where needed. Pre- and post-intervention plaque scores were recorded for residents and P values calculated using a paired t-test. In addition, the number of residents examined, treated and referred for more complex dental care was recorded.
The statistical analysis program, SPSS, was used to conduct a paired t-test to compare pre- and post-intervention plaque scores on residents from the 5 RACFs. A statistically significant result of P < 0.0001 showed the intervention of the dental hygienist was effective in reducing plaque scores in residents across the 5 RACFs.
The Senior Smiles model of care provided residents with preventive oral hygiene care, referral pathways for complex dental treatment needs and established a formal management programme for ongoing oral health care within the RACFs. The Senior Smiles model of care is successful and transportable.