Oral Care in Care Homes

This week Care Quality Commission (CQC) published its latest report on oral care health in care homes.

Their findings reflect what people have been telling Healthwatch nationally, including the problems people face in accessing dentists.

Key findings from CQC

  • People who live in care homes do not always get the support they need to maintain good oral health.
  • 52% of care homes have no policy in place to support resident’s oral health. This could mean care home staff are not aware of the need to support people with daily mouth care, like brushing their teeth.
  • Many residents are not able to access oral health products like toothbrushes as care homes would not provide them, as they are seen as a cosmetic product, not a health care one.
  • One third of care homes said they had had difficulty accessing routine NHS dentistry services. Some managers reported that domiciliary dentists refused to visit care homes.

In response to the publication of the report, Healthwatch England Chair, Sir Robert Francis QC, said:

“Healthwatch has investigated the lack of oral healthcare in care homes for a number of years, and it is encouraging that this issue is now being addressed. Daily oral health support, which includes simple things like the daily brushing of teeth, is important to maintaining people’s overall health and it needs to be taken seriously.

“I am pleased that we have been able to work with the CQC to raise the profile of this issue and it is encouraging to see that practices are beginning to change. We want people to have the confidence to know that if they speak up to Healthwatch, action will be taken.

“What we learnt from this report is that we must improve oral healthcare training for care workers. It can make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of people living in care homes when care workers have a better understanding of what is good practice in oral healthcare and how they can support people to maintain good oral health.

“This report makes it clear that this issue is about more than just about access to dentists in care homes. The lack of availability of dentists is an growing issue that needs immediate attention. There is an increasing number of people who struggle to access high street dentists, and we urgently need to look at how we can successfully address this issue.”

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