A CQC review of England’s care homes has found significant failings in oral health care.
Published three years after the publication of NICE guidelines on oral health in care homes, the survey found steps are often not taken to ensure residents are given the necessary treatment so that they are pain free and their dignity is respected.
Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said: “Oral health has a huge impact on our quality of life and we need professionals across a number of sectors to make changes to ensure it is given the priority it needs in care home settings.
“Oral health cannot be treated as an afterthought. It can make the difference between someone who is free from pain, enjoys eating and is able to confidently express themselves through talking and smiling – and someone who is in pain, unable to enjoy their food and who covers their mouth with their hand when they smile because of their poor oral hygiene but unable to address it themselves.”
More than half (52%) of the care homes visited had no policy to promote and protect oral health.
Almost half (47%) did not provide staff training to support’s people’s daily healthcare.
Almost three quarter (73%) of residents’ care plans only partly covered or did not cover oral health care with homes for people living with dementia the worst offenders.
Nearly one in five care homes (17%) said they did not assess people’s oral health on admission.
On the positive side, two thirds (67%) of care homes said people had access to NHS dental care, however, the report revealed that dentists were often unwilling or unable to visit services.
A further 10% of homes said they had no way of accessing emergency dental care treatment with a third saying they had limited or no access to out of hours services. Some care home managers said they had to call GPs, NHS 111, or even take the person requiring emergency care to A&E.
The CQC called for a cross sector approach to tackle the concerns raised by the report. The review includes case studies of productive, joined-up relationships between care homes and local dental practices, including dentists providing routine check-ups, ongoing treatment and emergency care, both in and outside the care home.
Recommendations include a call for mandatory staff training in oral care, oral health check-ups for all residents upon admission, better signposting to local dental services and the convening of a multi-agency group tasked with raising awareness among people living in care homes, their families and carers of the importance of day-to-day dental hygiene and the need for routine check-ups.