A quick guide for care home managers. Poor oral health can affect people’s ability to eat, speak and socialise normally.
People living in care homes are at greater risk of oral health problems for several reasons:
- Long-term conditions (including arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia) can make it harder to hold and use a toothbrush, and to go for dental treatment.
- Many medicines reduce the amount of saliva produced and leave people with a dry mouth.
- People now keep their natural teeth for longer, but this can mean they need more complex dental care than people who have dentures.
- Thorough assessments, and support from skilled and knowledgeable staff can help prevent the pain, disturbed sleep and health problems that poor oral health can cause.
More than half of older adults who live in care homes have tooth decay, compared to 40% of over 75’s who do not live in care homes.
Oral health assessment
All residents should have an oral health assessment when they move into the care home, with the result recorded in their care plan. Care staff should start by asking the following questions:
- How do you usually manage your daily mouth care and what help would you like?
- What dental aids do you currently use? For example, manual or electric toothbrush, mouthwash, floss.
- Do you have dentures, and if so are they marked with your name? If not, would you like them to be marked?
- When did you last see a dentist, and who did you see? If you don’t have a dentist would you like help to find one?
Using an oral health assessment tool – like the one here – will highlight any areas where residents need specific care and support. Using it for reassessments will indicate any changes that may need action.