Health x Wellness

The National Dental Centre Singapore’s Oral Health Movement 8020

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The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) pilots Oral Health Movement 8020 programme to help seniors achieve good oral function by retaining at least 20 teeth at 80 years and beyond.

According to a 2016 Singapore study, researchers found that only 9 percent of the population aged 80 and above had at least 20 teeth left. The study also found that 30 percent of those aged 60 and above did not have any teeth.

Research has shown that by having at least 20 teeth, a person can achieve good oral function, which is defined as the ability to speak, chew and swallow food well.

With these insights, the NDCS has rolled out Oral Health Movement (OHM) 8020. The two-year pilot programme aims to screen at least 500 Singaporeans aged 40 and above for oral frailty, or the decline of good oral function.

A Japanese study found that individuals extensive tooth loss without replacement, such as dentures, tend to opt for foods high in carbohydrates and fats, as opposed to meat, fruits and vegetables. They do so as they find the latter food groups more difficult to chew. This can lead to malnutrition and poor health.

Additionally, being orally pre-frail or frail can increase the risk of choking while eating or drinking. With age, oral frailty may only become more pronounced in those with extensive tooth loss.

The OHM 8020 programme has three key phases: community screening, intervention, and review. Through this programme, we aim to educate the public on the importance of maintaining at least 20 teeth, and the impact of oral frailty on their overall well-being. With that understanding and knowledge, we hope more Singaporeans will be able to retain at least 20 natural teeth beyond the age of 80.

Dr Chan Pei Yuan, Consultant, Department of Restorative Dentistry at NDCS and OHM 8020 programme Lead

Community screening, which started in March 2021, is done by the Community Nurses from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as part of their care for the residents living in Southeast Singapore.

Oral Health Movement 8020

These nurses also conduct oral health education to encourage good oral care habits among the seniors, to prevent further tooth loss. To date, the nurses have screened more than 90 residents, with about 30 percent deemed orally pre-frail and frail.

As part of the pilot, OHM 8020 participants who have been screened and identified as orally pre-frail or frail are invited to participate in an oral frailty prevention programme in NDCS.

This step involves further assessment and learning how to improve their oral health. Participants found to have oral health issues or swallowing issues will be referred to dentists or speech therapists for appropriate follow-up.

These participants will be subsequently reviewed six months later to reassess their oral frailty status.