3 March 2015

A new online initiative to improve the oral health of the elderly launches today (Tuesday 3 March) with the help of the UK's leading oral health charity.

Improving Oral Health in Older Persons Initiative (IOHOPI) developed in association with the University of Kent, aims to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health later in life by providing training for carers within the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Its website, www.iohopi.co.uk has been specially developed by the British Dental Health Foundation and features e-learning modules, links and resources that aim to substantially improve the overall wellbeing and quality of life for older people.

More than three million people already visit the British Dental Health Foundation's website every year to access oral health information and Chief Executive of the charity, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, hopes this new resource will encourage carers to go online and learn more about the importance of good oral health for their dependent.

IOHOPIDr Carter said: "Elderly people have some very specific dental needs with many suffering from decay due to changes in saliva flow that occur with age or as a result of prescription drug use. If these needs aren't met and become neglected, you will see the types of problems witnessed in the study, most notably increased tooth mobility, which will eventually lead to losing teeth.

"All this occurs at a time when self-care through toothbrushing may become more difficult due to decreasing manual dexterity. It is particularly important for older people to brush their teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste. Use of mouthwashes to help prevent plaque build-up or products specifically developed for dry mouth can also help them maintain optimum oral care and prevent problems. Demographic projections show that the proportion of people over 60 will continue to increase, so these requirements are really important.

"I hope the vast array of resources on the website will help carer's to greater understand the importance of oral health and help to reduce the number of problems older people face."

It is predicted that by 2020, around one in five people in the UK will be aged 65 years or older. As people age, many will develop some deterioration in physical and cognitive abilities, and increasingly need care, either in their own or in residential or nursing homes. And so, as people live longer, it is estimated that up to one in five people aged over 80 years will be affected by complex medical histories and cognitive conditions.


With over half of older adults maintaining some of their natural teeth, the need for preventive care as well as on-going complex restorative treatment is also increasing. Project Leader Dr Robert McCormick hopes the initiative will help to bring about some significant changes.

Dr McCormick said: "The initiative aims to improve overall health and quality of life for older persons, by improving their oral healthcare and oral health status. Initially aimed at providing oral healthcare training and resources for carers within the care home setting, the Initiative aspires to extend this to support and improve training for all carers of older persons within the wider community."

For further information on the initiative, please visit www.iohopi.co.uk.