Oral health in old age

Today we keep our own teeth or sophisticated fixed tooth replacements high up in ages. A well preserved dentition is both correlated to good oral health related quality of life, a good general health and well preserved cognitive functions.

We study relations between general and oral health, as the health situation in an older individual is very complex. The care of this patient group is also very complex with many professions involved, as well as relatives. 

A focus area for our research is the cooperation between the health sector and odontology. Many older people have a high medication usage that causes oral dryness, which in turn increases the risk for caries and mucosal infections but also the risk to receive aspiration pneumonia. 

Cognitive decline and other functional limitations or variations, often decrease the dental contacts when the medical contacts increase. It is important that the oral health still will be lifted also in these contacts. We also look at other factors that can be an obstacle for dental visits, as dental fear.

When older people both lose their ability to perform acceptable oral hygiene and keep up their dental contacts, the oral deterioration often goes fast. The Swedish system of oral care to dependent older people works rather well in special facilities but not for those who still live in their own homes, while domestic dental care is a focus area for our research.

A teaching film produced as a course introduction

Principal Investigator

Dental anxiety in adults from the dental personnel’s perspective, a PhD-project

Generally the assessment of the patient’s anxiety level is done by the gut feeling of the dental personnel but it is important that the assessment is accurate to enable the correct treatment to the patient. This is further accentuated when it comes to the elderly patient, where sight and hearing problems as well as both functional and cognitive limitations are obstacles for mutual conversation and understanding. By tradition or other non-known reasons, dental personnel seldom consider that an elderly patient’s behavior, lack of cooperation or lost dental contacts may originate from dental anxiety.

The project aims to evaluate dental personnel´s ability to assess dental anxiety, to determine which factors affect the assessment and to evaluate a new system for measuring dental anxiety in the clinical setting.

Group members

Markus Höglund, DDS and PhD-student; Shervin Shahnavaz, psychologist and PhD, Mats Bågesund, DDS and associate professor


Region Östergötland

Domiciliary professional oral care for dependent elderly, a PhD-project

Elderly patients with functional limitations and care dependency present many obstacles to this traditional dental care. The result will be dental visits only in emergency case and prophylactic care will not be performed. The Swedish dental remuneration from 1999 includs a possibility for home visits to dependent patients by a dental hygienist to perform an oral health care assessment. Professional oral care is often not included, even if it can be conducted with rather simple dental equipment with high quality in a home environment. County councils or regions have also applied restrictions regarding the annual number of subsidized prophylactic oral care treatments. The rationale for this is probably tradition and economy due to absence of scientific evidence of benefits.

The project has already been performed in nursing homes, with good effects but now we focus on home living dependent elderly, an expanding group in the society.

The project aims to evaluate the effect of domiciliary prophylactic professional oral care interventions for care dependent home living elderly, and to establish evidence based recommendations for domiciliary prophylactic professional oral care in this patient group.

Group members

Elisabeth Morén, dental hygienist, DDS and PhD-student; Pia Skott, DDS and PhD; Petteri Sjögren, DDS and PhD, Georgios Belibasakis, Professor   


Kamprad Foundation, Region Dalarna and Gävleborg

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