The Importance of Oral Health and Dental Treatment in Care Homes
NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, have released a new set of guidelines that apply to all UK residential care homes, calling on them to prioritise oral health and enable their residents to have access to dental treatment. This was prompted by a finding that more than fifty per cent of residents in Britain’s care homes suffer from tooth decay compared with 40% of people of the same age that don’t live in care homes. This equally applies to the elderly in care homes in West Sussex.
Teeth for Life
As with all other parts of our body, teeth decay with time, and this takes place much more quickly if oral hygiene is poor. If older people who are living in care homes have taken good care of their teeth and gums throughout their life, they are more likely to have their own full or partial set of teeth as opposed to dentures. Therefore continued brushing and flossing need to be encouraged, particularly as forgetfulness becomes an issue.
All older people in residential care homes have the basic right to assistance with their oral hygiene. At the very least, their teeth should be in a condition that allows them to eat and speak comfortably; at worst, damaged teeth and gums may become painful, leading to unhappy or irritable residents who may not be able to describe the problem, particularly if they have dementia. This means pain and infection may not be treated and will get worse. Anyone with a sore mouth is unlikely to have a good appetite, and this is also true of older people, for whom it is important to maintain a good nutrient intake so that their immune system and general health are preserved.
NICE guidelines recommend that all residents have an oral health assessment as they enter a private care home and that a personal care plan be initiated. Staff should be trained so that they can take care of the oral health of residents. They need to be able to implement a good daily routine and know what they can do to help an individual. NICE also recommends that residents should have access to local oral health services. It is imperative that dentists and private care homes work together to make such services a reality, as this has not been common practice in the past.
It is important that older people in care homes in West Sussex and elsewhere across the country should have access to dentists on a regular basis.