Government takes first step towards better oral health for residents

The Federal Government has announced the Nursing Home Oral and Dental Health Plan, allocating $3 million with the aim of providing training and education for staff on how to maintain the oral hygiene of residents.

The plan aims to have a staff member from all 2,830 aged care homes trained in dental hygiene by 2010. Under the plan, the trained staff member will then be given the tools to educate their fellow aged care workers to help promote good oral health and hygiene in residents.

The oral health of nursing home residents has been of growing concern in recent years because of the number of residents in homes who now retain their own teeth.The Australian Dental Association research shows that in 1979, 60 per cent of residents had no natural teeth and by 1989, it had fallen to 44 per cent. Within 10 years, it is expected to drop to 20 per cent.

Announcing the plan, Minister for health and Ageing, Ms Justine Elliot said that the key to improving dental care is to educate aged care workers on how to assist with residents’ oral and dental health.

”Unfortunately, many of the older Australians in aged care homes cannot communicate their discomfort and are unable to look after their own dental health,” said Mrs Elliot.

“They are part of the generation that grew up before fluoridisation, and therefore, their level of dental health can be poor, but they still have their actual teeth.”

The plan is an attempt to create a nationally consistent approach to dental assessments in the ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) process. The oral health assessment tool is to be included in the proposed set of assessment tools for ACATs.

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