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Oral healthcare for elderly "must" improve

Thursday, 12 Apr 2012 12:00

Leading oral health charity, the British Dental Health Foundation, has highlighted that the lack of dental healthcare for the elderly could have implications for years to come.

The claim comes following a report by the British Dental Association, which has revealed that only seven out of 21 recommendations made in 'Oral Healthcare for Older People 2020 Vision'1 have been implemented.

The original report, published in 2003 made recommendations regarding the quality and availability of dental services for the elderly and the new report highlights that these have not been addressed.

The report identified that basic information about full and partial exemption from NHS dental charges still needs to be simplified and publicised to the elderly and their carers, while a requirement for residential care homes to provide potential residents with basic information on quality-of-life indicators relating to oral health has also not been fully implemented.

The consequences of this could leave an ever growing elderly population open to a whole range of health problems, as well as having an increased impact on already overstretched resources.

Dr Nigel Carter Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation said: "The need for dental care teams to invest time and money in the elderly carries growing importance. Demographic projections show that the proportion of people over 60 will continue to increase.

"Older people have some very specific dental needs with many suffering from decay around the necks of teeth due to changes in saliva flow that occur with age or as a result of prescription drug use. 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 twice a day for two minutes at a time using 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.

"The British Dental Health Foundation is committed to help improve the oral health of the public through education and impartial advice. Our annual campaign Nation Smile Month is taking place from 20 May to 20 June and is a reminder to everyone about just how important oral health is."

To further emphasise the need for better oral healthcare among the elderly, the World Health Organization have recently stated 'the main health challenges for older people are non-communicable diseases'2. In addition, the World Health Professions Alliance have also stated oral diseases, including tooth decay, severe gum disease and oral cancer are 'neglected but important non-communicable diseases with a significant burden on overall health'3.


Editor's Notes

1. Oral healthcare for Older People 2020 Vision

2. Good health adds life to years - Global brief for World Health Day 2012


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