Oral health care in older people in long term care facilities: a systematic review of implementation strategies

L Weening-Verbree, G Huisman-de Waal, L van Dusseldorp, T van Achterberg, L Schoonhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Oral hygiene is necessary to maintain oral health and quality of life. However, the oral hygiene and the oral health care of older people in long term care facilities are poor. This indicates that care is not in compliance with the available guidelines and protocols, and stresses the importance of a clear evidence-based implementation strategy to improve oral health care. The aim of this study is to review implementation strategies used to promote or improve oral health care for older people in long term care facilities from the perspective of behaviour change, to code strategy content at the level of determinants, and to explore their effectiveness.

DESIGN: Systematic review of literature.

DATA SOURCES: The digital databases of the Cochrane Library, PubMed and Cinahl have been searched up to September 2011 for relevant articles.

REVIEW METHODS: After a systematic selection process, included studies were quality assessed by three researchers. We extracted the study characteristics using the EPOC Data Collection Checklist and Data Abstraction Form. Strategy content was extracted and coded by using the Coding Manual for Behavioural Change Techniques. This manual groups the behaviour change techniques under relevant behavioural determinants.

RESULTS: Twenty studies were included in this review. Implementation strategies were delivered by dental hygienists or dentists. Oral health care was performed by nurses and nurse assistants in all studies. All studies addressed knowledge, mostly operationalized as one educational session. Knowledge was most often combined with interventions addressing self efficacy. Implementation strategies aimed at knowledge (providing general information), self-efficacy (modelling) or facilitation of behaviour (providing materials to facilitate behaviour) were most often identified as successful in improving oral health.

CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge, self-efficacy and facilitation of behaviour are determinants that are often addressed in implementation strategies for successful improvement of oral health care in older patients. Strategies addressing increasing memory, feedback of clinical outcomes, and mobilizing social norm are promising and should be studied in the future. However, as the quality and heterogeneity of studies is a reason for concern, it is not possible to unequivocally recommend strategies or combinations of strategies for improving oral health care in the older population. When choosing strategies to improve oral health care, care professionals should thoroughly examine the setting and target group, identify barriers to change and tailor their implementation strategies to these barriers for oral health care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-582
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • elderly people
  • health care
  • nursing homes
  • oral hygiene


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