Low dental attendance among over 85s sparks push for regular check ups
New NHS figures reveal low dental attendance among older people, provoking calls for regular check ups.
Statistics show only 41.3% of adults aged 85 and above saw an NHS dentist from January 2018 to December 2019.
In comparison, 49.6% of adult aged 18 and above visited an NHS dentist in the same two-year period.
Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the faculty of dental surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the figures are a ‘cause of concern’.
He said: ‘All older people, whether they have natural teeth or not, should visit the dentist regularly.
‘This provides a vital opportunity to screen for problems such as oral cancer. Without regular check ups, complications might not otherwise get picked up until it is too late.’
Home check ups
He believes it is important older people have access to home appointments – particularly those who struggle to leave their homes.
‘We are under no illusions that some older patients may not be able to attend a dental practice due to mobility difficulties,’ he said.
‘However, there are ways of getting around this. For example, by ensuring high quality domiciliary dental care is available for patients who require treatment at home.
‘It is also important that older people have support within the community.
‘Health and social care professionals who work regularly with older people should receive training in oral health. This will help them identify if someone they care for has a problem.
‘Equally, family members can play a key role in monitoring their older relatives’ oral health, particularly where they have a relative who lives on their own.’
This follows FDS findings that revealed poor oral health can have a substantial impact on older people’s quality of life.
Published in August 2017, the Improving Older People’s Oral Health report linked poor oral health to malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia as well as speech difficulties.