AN estimated 1.8 million people aged over 65 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have an urgent dental condition such as decay in untreated teeth, pain or oral sepsis, according to a new report by The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.
Dental problems in older people are linked to conditions such as malnutrition or pneumonia, and could rise by more than 50 per cent by 2040.
The FDS is calling for key health and social care professionals to receive training in oral health, and for regulators to make standards of oral care part of their assessments of hospitals and care homes.
The FDS report concedes that over the last 40 years standards of adult oral health have improved dramatically. The number of people in England aged 65 and over who retain some of their natural teeth has risen from 22 per cent in 1978 to 85 per cent of 65–74 year olds and 67 per cent of those aged 75 and over. But this improvement has also created new challenges for dentists, as many older people now require ongoing maintenance of heavily restored teeth.
The report makes a number of recommendations to improve oral healthcare, such as training in oral health for key health professionals in acute and community care settings, such as nurses, junior doctors, pharmacists and geriatricians.
Social care providers should also offer their staff appropriate training about oral health and care, as well as ensuring that all services have an oral care policy and cover oral health as part of initial health assessments. Preventative advice on maintaining good oral health should be easily available for older people themselves, their families and carers.
Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “That there could be least 1.8 million people aged 65 and over with an urgent dental problem is terrible. We are letting older people down at a time when they need the most help by not having a joined up strategy for improving access to dental services for older people.
"We need to work together to ensure improvements in oral healthcare for older people. Dental health needs to be viewed as part of older people’s overall health, with health professionals and social care providers being trained to recognise and deal with problems."