We carried out a recent poll to help us understand the challenges care managers are facing to achieving good oral care in care homes, and the results are in!
- 43% of people who responded stated that ‘staff don’t see it as a priority
- 30% put it down to a lack of guidance and training
- 17% said staff fear personal harm
- 9% stated there was a lack of fit-for-purpose tools
CQC now heavily promote the importance of oral care in care homes, which includes mandatory training and forming part of the effective and responsive KLOE’s
Here, Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) talks about the importance of oral health:
“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 they are ashamed of their poor oral hygiene but unable to address it themselves. No one should have to live like that.”
And yet there still seems to be a huge gap between where we are and where we need to be on understanding the huge impact oral health has on overall health.
Did you know that the state of your teeth affects your overall health, with gum disease linked to lots of serious health problems in other parts of the body?
Therefore, brushing your teeth regularly to remove plaque can prevent gum disease and improve your overall health.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only 1 in 6 people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only 1 in 3 is aware of the heart disease link.”
So why is good oral care so important?
In a two-part BBC series, Dr Christoffer Van Tulleken, carried out an experiment where he didn’t brush his teeth for 2 weeks, to demonstrate the implications of poor dental hygiene.
Dr Tulleken commented: ‘At the end of this time, I brushed my teeth and my gums bled; I had developed mild gum disease – an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It’s mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up on all hard surfaces of the mouth due to lack of oral hygiene. Carry on like this and not treat the problem and I could lose some teeth.’
Further tests showed that he had also damaged his immune system – In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time. And there is mounting evidence that shows an association between poor oral hygiene and a wide variety of illnesses including:
- Diabetes, and its control
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease and heart attacks
- Rheumatoid arthritis
‘Gum disease isn’t just bad for your teeth; it shortens your life – simple as that. So, looking after your teeth is one of the most important health interventions you can make’ he concluded.
How do you think you would feel if you were unable to brush your teeth for 2 weeks?
What do you think the implications to your health and wellbeing would be?
- Inadequate oral care can be detrimental to social and emotional well-being – people become very conscious of not having a fresh mouth and can withdraw socially.
- Any untreated oral pain can make chewing difficult and uncomfortable and therefore impact adequate levels of nutrition and hydration for weight maintenance
However, a good oral care regime can help to:-
- Keep residents as comfortable as possible in palliative and end-of-life care
- Prevent dental decay and gum disease
We need to work together to help build knowledge and understanding of the implications of poor oral hygiene and why it needs to be made a priority.
Why not download a copy of our free Oral Care Guide? And you can check out our comprehensive range of fit-for-purpose oral care product solutions here too.
We have additional great articles relating to oral care that you may find a worthwhile read! Find them here.