Aged Care and Oral Health - World Toothache Day February 9th


Published: 05 February 2017

Toothaches, as you likely know, can be terribly unpleasant! There is even a day dedicated to this unpleasant experience – World Toothache Day on 9 February.

With the day approaching, take a moment to remember what a toothache feels like, or if you are lucky enough not to know, you may be able to remember someone else around you experiencing this intense pain in their teeth.

Either way, you probably agree that World Toothache Day has been made official for a reason – toothaches, officially, are horrid.

Why not consider your dental health in the lead up to World Health Day 2017 and ensure that you look after your teeth and perhaps get that dental check-up that you may have been putting off.

That’s right – according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2016) 2013 survey findings, 32% of Australians aged 5 and older did not go to the dentist due to the cost of dental care!

The AIHW (2016) found that 19% of insured Australian adults that had to pay for their own dentistry, reported that dental care created a significant financial problem.

Aged Care and Oral Health

Dental issues that are linked with the ageing process, include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Periodontitis
  • Root and coronal caries

(ADA 2015)


Aged Care and Oral Health - World Toothache Day - Ausmed

Aged Care and Oral Health – World Toothache Day – Ausmed

Porter et al. (2015) found in a study of older nursing home residents that many had poor oral health. This contributed significantly to a decrease in oral health-related quality of life.

Many of the residents in Porter et al.’s study conveyed that they suffered cracked lips, dry mouth, poor-fitting dentures, broken teeth and gum-bleeding.

It was concluded that health promotion interventions may help to improve the oral health for nursing home residents. This may also suggest a way to improve the oral health-related quality of life for aged nursing home residents.

An additional care consideration for older clients is that they may be more sensitive to the medications/analgesics and anaesthetics required to perform dental work (ADA 2015).

It has been suggested that older people should have minimal use of epinephrine due to the anticipated effect on an aged heart (ADA 2015).

Furthermore, older people are more at risk of medication errors, interactions and side effects, due to often being on many prescription and non-prescription medications (ADA 2015).

Other conditions that are more common in older adults, such as dementia and communication difficulties (e.g. hearing loss), also contribute to a greater risk of poor oral health (ADA 2015). Cognitive and communication issues can lead to difficulties for the person to comprehend and be guided by instructions that could improve their dental health (ADA 2015).

The ADA (2015) suggests tailoring daily living care to the individual’s needs. This may mean employing large font to ease interpretation of written information, limiting background noises to aid auditory information transfer, or creating a calm and trustworthy environment for people with dementia (ADA 2015).

With World Toothache Day approaching, it is worth considering what you can do in your nursing care to assist your older clients to improve their oral health.

As a nurse or health professional, it is imperative that you are aware of this issue and that you tailor healthcare interventions to meet the individual client’s need.

As you become older too, it is essential that you look after your own oral health as well.

Why not make this World Toothache Day an opportunity to positively contribute to the oral and dental health of yourself and your clients.

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Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CDE, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her Master of Healthcare Leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing. She has transitioned from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in the acute/hospital setting to education management and primary healthcare. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her research proposal for her PhD involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) and primarily works in the academic role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. She is working towards her PhD. See Educator Profile