A/Professor Janet Wallace has been working in this area of oral health care since 2010 when she started her PhD entitled, the ‘Development of a Service-Learning Model of Health Promotion in the Residential Aged Care Environment for Dental Hygiene Students’, awarded in 2013, this original work has developed into the translational research program known as ‘Senior Smiles’ a preventive oral health care program for older people living in residential aged care facilities (RACF).
A pilot program in 2014, placed a qualified dental hygienist into 5 Residential Aged Care Facilities on the NSW Central Coast to test the model of care. Success from the pilot led to phase II of the research commencing in September 2017 completing in September 2020. The research places a qualified oral health practitioner into Residential Aged Care Facilities to provide the elderly residents with oral health education, oral health assessments, oral health care plans and referral pathways to dentists and/or dental prosthetists for more complex dental needs.
The current Senior Smiles team was developed for Stage II of the research which commenced in 2017, headed by A/Prof Janet Wallace, the architect and chief investigator, Mrs. Sarah Griffiths, the Senior Smiles Operations Manager and co-investigator, Dr Kay Franks, co-investigator and Senor Smiles educator, Mrs. Lindy Metcalf, dental hygienist, Mrs. Lindi Saley, dental hygienist and Mr. Baden Hunter, oral health therapist. Supported by Dr Linda Wallace, dental hygienist & lecturer, and Ms. Lexie McLaren, dental therapists, conjoint lecturer, who manage the Aged Care student placement program at the University of Newcastle.
The Senior Smiles team have worked tirelessly to bring attention to the much-needed oral health care for older people living in Residential Aged Care Facilities. Lobbying for national funding; to align oral health care in residential aged care facilities with general health care. The Senior Smiles model of care requires national funding paid directly to the residential aged care facilities to employ oral health therapists/dental hygienists to deliver the Senior Smiles model on-site. This model would link employment of an oral health therapist/dental hygienist with accreditation standards, thus ensuring oral health is managed across all Australian residential aged care facilities in an equitable manner.
The Senior Smiles team believe this model is the only way to manage oral health care in this environment.
The Senior Smiles mission is to provided effective preventive oral health care for all residents living in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia. Oral health must be part of general health care for all residents in this environment. Senior Smiles makes oral health a priority.