Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 6, P1177-1183.e1, June 2021

Oral Health Among Older Adults With Complex Needs Living in the Community and in Aged Residential Care Facilities within New Zealand



      To describe the oral health status and dental service use of older adults with complex needs living within the community and aged residential care (ARC) facility settings, and to determine associations between dental service utilization and sociodemographic variables.


      Secondary analysis of 2 continuously recruited national cohorts.

      Setting and Participants

      Adults aged ≥65 years having standardized assessments between July 1, 2012, and May 31, 2018, within New Zealand and who provided consent.


      All community-living older people with complex needs undergo a standardized assessment, using the Home Care International Residential Assessment Instrument (interRAI-HC), whereas all ARC facility residents undergo Long Term Care Facilities assessments (interRAI-LTCF). Anonymized data from consenting participants were extracted. Cross-sectional analyses of oral health status and dental service use variables employed logistic regression models, whereas longitudinal analysis of factors influencing dental service utilization employed binary generalized estimating equation models.


      Overall, 144,380 interRAI-HC assessments from 97,229 participants, and 195,549 interRAI-LTCF assessments from 62,798 participants were eligible. At first assessment, their average age was 81.9 years (range: 65-109 years) and 84.4 years (range: 65-110 years), respectively. Approximately 65% of the participants wore dentures; 9% had broken, fragmented, loose, or otherwise nonintact natural teeth; and 10% reported difficulties chewing. Overall, only 25.3% of community-dwelling older adults and 17.5% of ARC residents had a dental examination within the previous year. Stark inequalities were observed with, for example, Māori participants having adjusted odds 3.14 [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.88, 3.42] and 2.08 (95% CI: 1.81, 2.39) of not having a dental examination in community and ARC facility settings compared with their New Zealand European counterparts.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Heavy and unequal oral health burdens were observed among older adults with complex needs, together with low dental service uptake. New Zealand needs an oral health policy for older adults.


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