New: 50% of Older People in Care Homes Suffer from Tooth Decay

New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), entitled ‘Oral health for adults in care homes’, has called for oral health and dental treatment to be given increased priority for all older people living in care homes. Statistics within the NICE guidance show that over 50% of older people in care homes have tooth decay, compared with only 40% of over 75s and 33% of over 85s within the general population.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said ‘When oral health is ignored or poorly delivered in care homes it can lead to unhappy, irritable residents and for those with dementia, who often can’t describe problems with their teeth or gums, pain and infection may go untreated and worsen.’ Read on to find out more about this new NICE guidance and the measures you can take to promote good oral health amongst your service users.

The recommendations within the NICE guidance focus on improving and maintaining residents’ day-to-day oral healthcare, ensuring staff are properly trained to confidently look after the oral health needs of residents and that there is adequate access to dental services when needed. Failure to maintain good oral health can lead to pain, difficulty in eating, weight loss, social isolation and deteriorating general health.

4 Tips to Improve the Oral Health of Your Service Users

  1. Assess on admission. Carry out an oral health assessment of all service users on admission to include details of how the person usually manages their mouth care, whether or not they have dentures and when they last saw a dentist. A useful assessment tool, recommended by NICE, is available here.
  2. Provide daily mouth care. Ensure staff provide daily support with mouth care, including brushing natural teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and providing appropriate care of any dentures.
  3. Improve staff knowledge and skills. Ensure that all care staff understand the importance of effective mouth care and know how to provide appropriate support, assess oral health and report any concerns.
  4. Promote access to oral health services. NICE acknowledges the difficulties that many older people living in care homes have in accessing suitable specialist advice and treatment and recommends that care home managers report any concerns about a lack of access to local Healthwatch or public health teams.

For more on best practice in oral hygiene and other common health issues in care service users, read Care Quality Matters. We offer a 30-day free trial of our newsletter for Registered Managers – which comes with loads of downloadable tools and resources to help you provide the best possible standards of care.

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