A single-item approach to screening elders for oral health assessment

Cheryl Chia-Hui Chen, Deborah A. Chyun, Chung Yi Li, Ruth McCorkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND:: Oral health contributes significantly to overall health. Finding a single item that can be used by primary care providers to screen elders who are in need of oral care is important. OBJECTIVES:: The objective of this article was to evaluate usefulness of the item: "Do you have regular dental checkups?" as a means to decide whether an oral health assessment or further referral is indicated. Answering no is postulated as a positive predictor of poor oral health and need for care. METHODS:: This study was a secondary analysis of a nutritional survey of 240 community-dwelling elders. Examiner-rated Kayser-Jones Brief Oral Health Status Examination; self-reported General Oral Health Assessment Index; number of remaining teeth; and pattern of checkups (regular vs. irregular) were evaluated by a trained gerontological nurse practitioner during an in-home assessment. RESULTS:: A dental visit within the past year for any reason was reported by 132 subjects (55.0%), but only 81 (33.8%) reported some sort of regular dental checkups. For dentate elders (n ≤ 147), an irregular checkup was associated with lower educational level, Protestant faith, and Black race. People with irregular checkups scored significantly lower on all three oral indices. The negative predictive values and likelihood ratio negative values ranged 98.7-100.0% and 0.00-0.98, respectively, indicating that this item of interest is valid for ruling-out dentate subjects with good oral health. For edentulous elders (n ≤ 93), the item was less effective. DISCUSSION:: A single item, "Do you have regular dental checkups?" can be used effectively to rule out dentate elders with good oral health and identify those who are in need of further oral health assessment or referrals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-338
Number of pages7
JournalNursing research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Aged
  • Oral health
  • Screening
  • Sensitivity and specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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