News archive 2005
Older people placing 'unprecedented demands' on dentists08 Dec 2005, PR 107/05
Dental experts report that the post World War Two generation is creating an unprecedented demand on the dental profession.
Press release issued by University of Newcastle,on behalf of the British Society of Gerodontology
It used to be generally accepted that old age was accompanied by losing most, if not all, your teeth and having them replaced with dentures. Today, however, statistics show that dentists are increasingly seeing people well beyond retirement age who have kept many or most of their teeth - but frequently with the help of restorative dental work like fillings and crowns that need much greater care and maintenance than dentures. Even in the oldest age groups (85 years and over) nearly half of the British population are now expected to have at least a few natural teeth.
Experts warn that this fundamental change in oral health will generate an unprecedented demand from older people for dentistry. However, some of this increase in demand on the Health Service will be offset by a reduction in demand by younger people due to a history of less decay and fewer fillings.
The Review*, published by the British Society of Gerodontology and funded by the Department of Health for England, suggests ways of meeting this new demand. It was compiled by a review group of healthcare professionals, academics and interest group representatives.
One of its key recommendations is that older people should be entitled to an extended consultation with a dentist to plan out their long term dental care needs. This would go beyond the standard check-up to include a full assessment of a patient's dental health and, in particular, to make sure that dental disease is prevented and unnecessary treatment avoided. The dentist would then use the session to formulate a comprehensive oral health plan tailored to that individual.
Other recommendations are to train more dentists in Gerodontology - the science of looking after older people's teeth -and to equip other professionals who are working with this age group on a regular basis with oral healthcare skills. The Review says that care home workers, community nurses and pharmacists, for example, should have the relevant expertise to advise older people on looking after their teeth.
Frail older people living in care homes are particularly vulnerable as regards their oral health. It can deteriorate rapidly in this group of people who are often unable to voice their needs. Thus, it is important that care homes encourage healthy eating, regular oral hygiene and the use of routine dental services.
Dr David Davis, senior lecturer and consultant at King's College London Dental Institute and chairman of the Review Group that authored the report, said: ‘This document contains the information that local policy makers and commissioners need in order to develop appropriate dental services to meet the changing and increasing needs of older people. The document sets out recommendations, including those for education and training and those that the Department of Health needs to meet.'
One of the report's authors, Professor Jimmy Steele, consultant at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, stated: ‘This change in oral healthcare demands is going to hit the NHS hard in the next decade or so. These people, who were born during the early years of the NHS, have benefited from regular dental treatment throughout their lives and they have higher expectations as a result. They want to keep their teeth, but to do so they will need a lot of professional attention from dental teams who have a sound training in Gerodontology.'
Janice Fiske, another member of the Review Group and a senior lecturer/consultant at King's College London Dental Institute added that : ‘It is well recognised that a healthy dentition contributes to helping individuals maintain better general health. It is important that older people receive support in maintaining a healthy dentition as this impacts heavily on their lifestyle, general health and self-esteem. For example, people with good teeth are able to eat a healthier diet containing foods like fruit and vegetables well into old age improving nutrition, health and quality of life.'
- The percentage of population in England and Wales in 1968 with no natural teeth was 37 per cent - compared with 13 per cent in 1998.
- The percentage of people aged between 65 and 74 years in England and Wales in 1968 with no natural teeth was 79 per cent - compared with 36 per cent in 1998.
- The percentage of people aged 65 and over in England and Wales estimated to have no teeth in 2025 is 20 to 25 per cent - up to 80 per cent of them will have some or all of their natural teeth
Notes to editors
* Meeting the Challenges of Oral Health for Older People: A Strategic Review was commissioned and funded by the Department of Health.
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