Dental Public Health Activities: Descriptive Summaries
Frail Elderly Surveillance in Assisted Living Facilities
Americans are living longer, which increases their likelihood of experiencing dental disease. The elderly population presents very unique challenges to dental disease prevention and control. However, lack of data relevant to this particular population presents a challenge for public health and health care practitioners to accurately determine oral health needs and devise effective strategies to address them.
Between August 2015 and February 2016, the North Carolina Oral Health Section (OHS) conducted its first statewide oral health assessment of adults residing in licensed assisted living facilities using the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors’ (ASTDD) Basic Screening Survey (BSS) methodology. The sample was comprised of 40 randomly selected facilities with a convenience sample of 854 residents. The study successfully established a baseline oral health status for this population and determined whether oral health varied by age, gender, race and ethnicity, date of admission, Medicaid enrollment status, and size and location of facility. This study served as a critical part of the state’s new Special Care in Dentistry Program to develop an oral health promotion and disease prevention initiative for North Carolina’s institutionalized adults. Associations between oral health and geographic location, size and quality rating of facilities may help direct efforts as we target those with the most need.
Soliciting facilities for participation in the survey required time and persistence due to high facility staff turnover and the perception that our visits were of a regulatory nature. Due to varying cognitive function, consent forms and coordination with the facilities were critical in obtaining the residents’ demographic information. Screeners and recorders were trained, but not calibrated, on the oral health indicators of the survey. Lastly, not all facility residents are “older adults”; inclusion/exclusion criteria will be necessary if seniors are truly the focus of any future surveillance activities.
Contact Person(s) for Inquiries:
Rhonda Stephens DDS, MPH, Public Health Dentist Supervisor, North Carolina Division of Public Health-Oral Health Section, 5505 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609,
Sarah Tomlinson, DDS, NC Dental Director , North Carolina Division of Public Health-Oral Health Section, 5505 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC 27609, Phone: 919-707-5488, Email: Sarah.Tomlinson@dhhs.nc.gov