Dental neglect a problem in care homes

MORE than half of older adults living in care homes have tooth decay compared to 40 per cent of over-75s and 33 per cent of over-85s not in care homes, according to NICE.

New NICE guidance is calling for dental health in residential care to be given the same priority as general medical care.

It is estimated there are more than 400,000 adults living in UK care homes, 80 per cent of whom have some form of dementia. Older adults in care homes are more likely to have fewer natural teeth with resulting difficulty in eating and socialising without embarrassment.

The new guidance recommends greater focus on improving and maintaining day-to-day oral healthcare among residents, ensuring that staff are properly trained and there is adequate access to dental services when needed. All residents should have an oral health assessment when they enter a care home with the results - including any treatment needs – being entered into their personal care plan.

This will ensure staff can perform routine daily mouth care for those who may not be able to do this for themselves, including brushing natural teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, daily oral care for full or partial dentures and daily use of mouth care products prescribed by dental clinicians and any over-the-counter products preferred by residents.

Professor Elizabeth Kay, Foundation Dean of Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University, and professor and consultant in dental public health, said: "Everyone should be able to speak, smile and eat comfortably, but all too often this is jeopardised by poor oral health which can have a significant negative effect on a person’s wellbeing and quality of life.

"Awareness of oral health needs to be raised within care homes and we want to see more staff given training about what they can do to help.

"The daily routines recommended in the guidance will help prevent problems and assist adults in care homes to have a comfortable, pain-free mouth.”