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Oral health assessment in residential care

Oral health assessment is the first step in helping to maintain a resident’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 admission to residential aged care and thereafter on a regular basis and when clinically indicated.

Oral health assessment tool (OHAT)

A clinical assessment of oral health status is recommended for frail older people. The Oral health assessment tool (PDF 58KB) 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.

The eight oral health categories are assessed as healthy, changes or unhealthy. A healthy or changes assessment can be managed by oral health care planning. An unhealthy assessment indicates the need for a dental referral

Self learning activities

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.

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