Andrew Selous MP: We need to ensure that older people can access dental health services when they need them
The Government’s expected Social Care Green Paper needs to set out how social care and dental services will work together in the future, says Andrew Selous MP.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons estimated in 2017 that 1.8 million people aged over 65 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have an urgent dental condition such as dental pain, oral sepsis or extensive untreated decay and they believe that this figure will rise to 2.7 million by 2040. Having a painful oral health problem can impact on someone’s ability to eat comfortably, to speak and socialise with confidence, and on the ease with which they can take medication. Good oral health is also important in order to ensure that older people have good hydration and nutrition and poor oral health is linked to pneumonia and heart disease.
Maintaining good oral health can become much more challenging for older people with restricted dexterity who may, for example, have more difficulty with brushing their teeth. People with dementia may also have difficulty communicating where they are experiencing pain.
There are five areas where action needs to be taken.
There needs to be training for health and social care professionals. Ideally, when someone is admitted as a resident to a care home, their oral needs should be considered as part of their health assessment and oral health checks should be included in the resulting care plans. Public Health England’s research in the North West England showed that 57% of residential care home managers did not have an oral care policy and 1 in 10 said that an oral health assessment was not undertaken at the start of provision. Oral care training for staff in hospitals is also important.
We need to ensure that older people can access dental health services when they need them. Attending a dental appointment can be a challenge for those with reduced mobility, meaning that domiciliary dental visits are required. This can be especially challenging for those living in care homes or supported housing.
We need better data, given that the last adult dental health survey was conducted in 2009, meaning that another one is due now, as they’ve happened every 10 years since 1968.
Regulation needs to be looked at as the Care Quality Commission in England does not explicitly look at oral health during its inspections of hospitals and care homes.
The Government’s expected Social Care Green Paper needs to set out how social care and dental services will work together in the future.
Andrew Selous is Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire.