As we know poor oral health can affect people’s ability to speak, eat, and socialize normally. In this blog, we will talk about the importance of oral health for people living in a care home.
Do you know, poor oral health is becoming an increasingly common issue for older adults (people over 65 years of age) which is affecting their quality of life, general health, and diet. Many people want to keep their natural teeth for longer. However, this may require them to perform more complex dental care as compared to people with dentures. Let’s know more about dental care for older adults in care homes.
Why are older people living in care homes are at higher risk of oral health problems?
Older people living in care homes are particularly at a higher risk of oral health problems due to various reasons such as:
- Difficulty in accessing domiciliary services
- Taking admission to the hospital for dental problems is quite distressing and costly
- Income-related discrimination in the oral health of older adults is a major issue
- Long-term conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia can make it difficult to hold and use a toothbrush, and to go for dental treatment.
- Several medicines that older people take reduce the amount of saliva produced, leaving them with a dry mouth.
How to improve oral health conditions among older people living in care homes?
Well, with the help of thorough assessments, and support from skilled and experienced staff, the pain, disturbed sleep, and other health problems that poor oral health can cause, can be prevented to a great extent. All the residents must go through an oral assessment when they move into the care home. Based on the assessment the result must be recorded in their care plan.
The following questions can be asked for better oral health assessment:
- How do they manage their daily oral care routine? Do they need any help in their oral care routine?
- What dental aids they are using currently like toothbrush, mouthwash, floss, etc. Whether they are using a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush?
- Do they have dentures? If yes, are they marked with their name and if not, would they like them to be marked?
- Are they experiencing any signs of dental pain?
- When did they last visit a dentist and who did they see?
- In case they don’t have a dentist, would they like help to find the right dentist for them?
With the help of oral health assessment, the care staff can easily know the essential areas where care home residents require specific care and support. The assessment data can also be used for reassessment purposes to find out any changes that may require action.
Must have knowledge and skills for care staff
The care staff must be knowledgeable enough to detect any oral health issue of a resident. They must know the right way and time to reassess the oral health of care home residents. They must support residents with their daily oral care routine which includes:
- Brushing their natural teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
- Cleaning their dentures with brushing to remove food debris.
- Help them remove dentures overnight.
- Use their choice of a toothbrush, either manual or electric/battery-powered, and other oral care products to assure better oral hygiene.
The care staff must also be able to understand the symptoms of mouth infection and how dental pain can affect the general health, well-being, and behavior of care home residents. They must know whom to contact in case of a dental emergency and how to react immediately in such a situation.
NICE guidelines related to oral health for adults in care homes
The guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that oral health and access to dental treatments must be given the same priority as general health for all adults living in care homes. It covers overall oral health including dental care and daily mouth care for adults in the care home. The motive is to maintain and enhance their oral health and ensure better and timely access to dental care services. It includes recommendations on:
- Improving and maintaining residents’ daily oral healthcare
- Making care home policies on oral health
- Better health assessment and mouth care plans
- Ensuring staff are well trained to confidently look after the oral health requirements of care home residents
- Providing adequate access to dental services when required
- Offering oral health promotion services
- Using general dental practices and community dental services
The guidelines are for:
- Registered care home managers
- Residential and nursing care home service staff who provide daily personal care to residents
- People who provide oral health services to care homes
- Local authorities, responsible for the health and care of adults who live in care homes
- Organizations concerned with the quality of care in care homes
- Commissioners of care home services
- People who live in care homes
All the related people, authorities, and organizations must take account of nationally recognized guidelines, including the guidance from NICE to promote better oral health care for care home residents.
If oral health is ignored or poor oral care services are delivered in care homes, it may negatively affect the lives of care home residents. It can lead to unhappy and irritable residents. Those adults who are dealing with the issue of dementia and can’t describe issues with their teeth or gums, pain, and infection remain untreated and may face the worst dental issues or diseases.
Therefore, proper dental assessment of care home residents is a must. If detected with any issue, immediate action must be taken for effective prevention of oral diseases.