Priority needed on oral health of elderly

Dentistry is failing elderly patients and not enough priority is being given to turning around the fortunes of their oral health.

That’s according to a new report published today (10 January).

The quality and availability of oral healthcare for older adults remains an issue, and insufficient priority is being given to making improvements, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.

The report says that many older adults’ health and wellbeing is under-served and that concerns remain about provision in the future.

It also argues that oral health is often not properly considered in wider healthcare provision and, as a result, that many patients simply don’t get the care they need.

The report warns that ageing Brits means that new challenges will emerge; including a significant increase in demand for restorative dental treatment.

The report provides a progress check on 21 recommendations for improving oral care for older people published in a BDA report of 2003.

Just six of those recommendations have been met in full, today’s report says. Amongst the challenges yet to be confronted are inadequate information about patient charge exemptions, the inability of dentists to prescribe artificial saliva except in certain circumstances, and the continued absence of a commissioning framework that properly takes account of older patients’ needs.

Today’s report sets out twelve priorities for reform including the provision of free, comprehensive oral health assessments for over-60s, better integration of health and social services, and the establishment of basic standards for care with which care homes should be obliged to comply.

Dr Robert Kinloch, chair of the BDA’s UK Healthcare Policy Group, said: ‘Good oral health is as important for older adults as it for younger patients. Being able to eat, communicate and socialise confidently all depend on maintaining a healthy mouth.

‘This report reminds us that many older adults simply aren’t receiving the oral healthcare they need. That is unacceptable. Although a great deal of progress has been made against the priorities highlighted by the BDA in 2003, notable challenges remain and new ones are emerging. This is a problem that won’t go away. The BDA will be pushing hard for the 12 new priorities this report sets out to be addressed.’

The report, along with new research into the experience of dentists and care home workers of providing oral care to older patients, is available at


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