Adults in residential aged care often retain their own teeth following restorative dental procedures during their lives. They may also have physical and psychological comorbidities impacting on oral health including side effects from medications. residents' poor oral hygiene, dental caries and periodontal disease raise questions about the quality of oral health care in aged care facilities. This paper presents findings from a study investigating dental professionals' perceptions of barriers and enablers to providing oral care to residents in such settings.
Material and methods
Following university ethics approval, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 dental professionals [five dentists, three oral health therapists (OHTs) and nine dental hygienists] across Australia to address the issue. Interviews were transcribed and analysed for key themes, noting similarities and differences within and between groups that were compared to existing evidence.
Key themes emerging from interviews included individual and organisational difficulties dental professionals experience when meeting residents' oral health needs; poor access to dental resources; limited oral health education for aged care staff; and lack of interprofessional collaboration. Suggested enablers to oral health included interprofessional education and practice, reflecting broader trends in health care that positively impact on health outcomes.
Improving residents' oral health requires appropriate organisational commitment to support dental and non-dental health providers deliver high-quality oral care. This study highlights the need to critically review barriers and enablers to providing such care, particularly as Australia's ageing population increases and longer periods are spent in residential aged care.