Breadcrumbs

Oral health assessment in home care

Oral health assessment is the first process in helping to improve an older person's oral health.

This does not take the place of a comprehensive dental examination but is used to identify whether an older person has oral health problems and is in need of a dental referral.

An oral health assessment does not take very long to do. It can be easily done at the same time as other general health assessments. It should take place on commencement of care and thereafter on a regular basis and/or when the need arises.

Assessment tools

Two types of oral health assessment tools are presented:

Six question oral health assessment tool

Six question oral health assessment tool is recommended for older people who can reliably self-report. It does not require a clinical assessment. The six oral health questions can be easily integrated into general health assessment and documentation.

A 'yes' to any of the following questions about the person's teeth, mouth or dentures indicates the need for a dental referral:

  • Do your have any of your own natural teeth?
  • Have you had pain in your mouth while chewing?
  • Have you lost any fillings or do you need a dental visit for any other reason?
  • Have you avoided laughing or smiling because of problems with your teeth, mouth or dentures?
  • Have you had to interrupt meals because of problems with your teeth, mouth or dentures?
  • Have you had difficulty relaxing because of problems with your teeth, mouth or dentures?

Oral health assessment tool

The Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT) is recommended for older people who are unable to reliably self-report and when a clinical assessment is required. It consists of a visual inspection using eight categories of oral health:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • gums and oral tissue
  • saliva
  • natural teeth
  • dentures
  • oral cleanliness
  • dental pain.

Self learning activities

Find out how to refer an older person to a dental professional.

Seeing a dental professional

Seeing a dental professional (PDF 4111KB) provides an overview of recommended oral health assessment tools, it explains dental referral pathway processes and provides a dental visit checklist to help with planning for the level of assistance required for the dental visit. The check list gives an overview of information required such as consent, current medical history and medications, appropriate concession cards and consideration of the need for an escort or assistance with transport.

Learn how to do a clinical oral health assessment using the OHAT tool

Oral Health Assessment Toolkit for older people

The Oral Health Assessment Toolkit for older people (PDF 6818KB) is to be used in conjunction with the oral health self learning quiz and the oral health assessment demonstration. It gives an overview of the common oral health conditions experienced by older people, provides helpful hints on oral health assessment preparation, how to manage changed behaviours, offers advice on medication considerations, and shows how to remove/reinsert dentures.

Oral health self learning quiz

Having read the Oral Health Assessment Toolkit information, the oral health self learning quiz is designed to test your knowledge of the common oral health conditions experienced by older people. It steps through the eight oral health categories using a series of examples to prompt an assessment of whether the example is assessed as healthy, changes or unhealthy. A healthy or changes assessment can be managed by using the Oral Health Care Planning Guidelines (PDF 897KB). An unhealthy assessment indicates the need for a dental referral.

Oral health assessment demonstration

This demonstration shows the technique of how to perform an oral health assessment. It takes a step by step approach describing what to look for in relation to each of the eight oral health categories being assessed.

^ Back to top