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Oral Health Assessment by Lay Personnel for Older Adults

Oral health is an often-undervalued contributor to overall health. The literature, however, underscores the myriad of systemic diseases influenced by oral health, including type II diabetes, heart disease, and atherosclerosis. Thus, assessments of oral health, called oral screenings, have a significant role in assessing risk of disease, managing disease, and even improving disease by oral care. Here we present a method to assess oral health quickly and consistently across time. The protocol is simple enough for non-oral health professionals such as students, family, and caregivers. Useful for any age of patient, the method is particularly key for older individuals who are often at risk of inflammation and chronic disease. Components of the method include existing oral health assessment scales and inventories, which are combined to produce a comprehensive assessment of oral health. Thus, oral characteristics assessed include intraoral and extraoral structures, soft and hard tissues, natural and artificial teeth, plaque, oral functions such as swallowing, and the impact this oral health status has on the patient's quality of life. Advantages of this method include its inclusion of measures and perceptions of both the observer and patient, and its ability to track changes in oral health over time. Results acquired are quantitative totals of questionnaire and oral screening items, which can be summed for an oral health status score. The scores of successive oral screenings can be used to track the progression of oral health across time and guide recommendations for both oral and overall health care.

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Journal article
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Journal of Visualized Experiments
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