Project Good Oral Health
Older adults experience more oral health problems than their younger counterparts, and the disparities increase for older African American, Latino and others marginalized from the dental care system by virtue of cost, insurance gaps, transportation, and lack of information about the importance and practice of good oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene and oral health practices such as ingestion of sugary and starchy foods is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, rates of which are higher in minority older adults. In 2010, the Institute for Community Research and the University Of Connecticut School Of Dental Medicine embarked on a decade long collaboration to improve the oral hygiene and oral health status of diverse older adults including those with disabilities, living in subsidized senior housing.
We began by building collaborative infrastructure with senior building managers, private and public, and talking with residents about their health concerns including oral health. Through this process we discovered their concerns and fears about oral hygiene practices at home, as well as their challenges in seeking quality dental care. Next we developed an approach, with the assistance of residents that involved a face to face counseling session, with video information on brushing and flossing properly plus counseling on fears, worries, concerns, perceived ability to perform oral hygiene practices and intention to do so, plus a peer driven oral health campaign to inform the building community about the importance of oral health and oral hygiene practices. This became a larger study in which each of these approaches was evaluated separately and together. The short term and long term results of the study have been positive, with declines in measures of gingivitis (gum irritation) and plaque on teeth, both of which are antecedent to periodontal disease and tooth loss. The study team consisted of principal investigators at UCONN and ICR (Susan Reisine, Ph.D. and Jean Schensul PhD., respectively), a team of statisticians, dentists and dental hygienists from UCH School of Medicine and Dentistry, and methodologists, health educators and evaluators from ICR. The studies are described in detail at www.projectgoh.com, along with published papers and presentations listed on the site. The study was funded by the National Institute for Dental Cranial Research.