25 June 2019

A new report by the Care Quality Commission has revealed a severe lack of provision for oral health care in care homes. The Oral Health Foundation is calling on the Government to take action and ensure that oral care for our elderly is not neglected.

The report, which looked at 100 care homes, found that around half (47%) did not provide training to their staff on oral health care. Furthermore, the report also found that nearly three quarters (73%) of individual care plans did not cover oral health sufficiently.

Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says that this report highlights the need for better communication between the care sector, the NHS and dentists.

Dr Carter says: “This concerning report should act as big wake up call for the care sector and the NHS. Clearly oral health is not being given the attention it deserves in care homes.

“It is especially worrying as looking after your oral health is equally as important when you get older and shouldn’t be neglected. Dry mouth as a side effect of certain medications and receding gums are both oral health problems which disproportionately affect the elderly."

Elizabeth Kay MBE, President of the Oral Health Foundation, who worked on the National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for care homes says that the NICE guidelines are not being followed as they should be.

Professor Kay says: “The National Institute for Care Excellence are very clear. They recommend that managers of care staff ensure that ‘staff provide residents with daily mouth care...[including]…brushing natural teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste’. The guidelines also recommend that staff provide ‘daily oral care for full or partial dentures (such as brushing, removing food debris and removing dentures overnight)’.

“Evidently, these guidelines are not currently being implemented as they should and the oral health of residents in care homes is suffering. It’s absolutely vital that care home staff get the support they need to be able to give their residents the quality of care, and therefore quality of life, that they deserve.”

Dr Carter adds: “By 2050, there will be two billion people aged 60 and over – more than double today’s figure. This problem needs to be addressed now to prevent it affecting any more elderly patients. Only with better organisation and a competent elderly care structure in place can we ensure better oral health provision in care homes.”

The full CQC report entitled ‘Smiling matters: oral health care in care homes’ can be found here.