A/Prof. Len Crocombe1, Dr Lynette Goldberg2
1Centre for Rural Health, College of Health and Medicine, University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2Wicking Centre for Dementia Research and Education, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
Poor oral health in older adults can result in malnutrition, swallowing problems, and behaviour changes due to pain. Of equal importance, poor oral health is increasingly associated with aspiration pneumonia, and comorbid medical conditions including diabetes, coronary heart risk, and rheumatoid arthritis, resulting in frequent unplanned hospitalisations and unexpected economic and personal costs. Urgent action is required for those who are already old and for ageing baby boomers who have retained their natural teeth but whose teeth are subject to decay and infections. This crisis needs innovative and evidence-based solutions that are implemented by teams to support dentists, particularly when dentists are not readily available. Speech pathologists, nutritionists, and pharmacists are three important members of such teams. Evidence-based solutions in which these allied health professionals can play an integral role include regular screening of oral function, nutrition, swallowing, medications, and quality of life, especially in residential aged care; implementing 2-minutes of teeth brushing after meals or cleaning dentures daily and removing them for sleep; facilitating increased independence in oral care and eating, reducing the use of multiple medications, and measuring the outcomes of these systematic interventions. Such allied health professionals can play a pivotal role in maintaining the oral and general health of older people whether they live in the community or in residential care.
A/Prof Crocombe has published over 45 papers in peer-reviewed journals, presented at over 85 conferences, drafted 30 submissions and reports. His areas of research interest are rural oral health, aged care oral health. He is the NHMRC Translating Research into Practice Fellow in aged care oral health.