The first process
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 needs 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.
Two types of oral health assessment tools are available
1. The six-question oral health assessment tool
The 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 questions 2-6 indicates a dental referral is required.
- Do you 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?
2. Oral health assessment tool
The Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT) (600KB PDF) 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:
- gums and oral tissue
- natural teeth
- 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
The Oral Health Self Learning Quiz (1MB PDF) and the oral health assessment demonstration (below) give an overview of the common oral health conditions experienced by older people. Both provide helpful hints on oral health assessment preparation, how to manage changed behaviours, offer advice on medication considerations, and show how to remove or reinsert dentures.
Oral health assessment demonstration - instructional video assessing the eight categories of oral health