Living in a care home can increase your risk of oral health problems.
This could be because you have a long-term condition like arthritis, which can make using a toothbrush more difficult. Or if you are living with dementia, dental appointments might be hard to get to and the care you do receive might not be tailored to your condition.
Certain medication or treatments like chemotherapy can also cause poor oral health. If you are taking medicine which reduces the amount of saliva you’re producing, this can leave you with a dry mouth and increase your risk of tooth decay.
People are also keeping their own teeth for longer, which can mean more complicated dental treatment than for people who have dentures.
Because of this, people living in care homes may have difficulty eating, speaking or sleeping, which can affect their quality of life.
In June 2019, he Care Quality Commission published its Smiling Matters report following a review on the state of oral health care in care homes across England.
Oral health assessments
To help people living in care homes have healthy teeth and gums, all care home residents should have an oral health assessment when they get there. This is then recorded in their overall care plan.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) quick guide, staff should start your assessment by asking you:
- How do you usually manage your daily mouth care and what help would you like?
- What dental aids do you currently use? For example, do you use a manual or electric toothbrush? Do you use mouthwash or 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 the dentist? If you don’t have a dentist, would you like help to find one?
Looking after your oral health
After your oral health assessment, staff should know how to help you with your daily mouth care. This includes supporting you to:
- Brush your natural teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Use your choice of cleaning products for your dentures.
- Clean your dentures, by brushing them, removing food debris and taking them out overnight.
- Use your own choice of toothbrush and mouth care products. For example, you might want to use a manual toothbrush and mouthwash.
Read the NICE guidelines in full to better understand the support care home services should offer to residents when it comes to their oral health.