Oral care in residential aged care facilities is a major concern for the Australian Dental Association.
Oral care in residential aged care facilities is a major concern for the Australian Dental Association.

Australian dentists urge greater care for the elderly

ELDERLY oral care is at the forefront for the Australian Dental Association (ADA) after it outlined it’s concerns in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recently.

While it may sound simplistic, Australian Dental Association NSW President Dr Kathleen Matthews outlined the drastic consequences elderly people in care facilities can face if oral health is not maintained.

“Poor oral health care can hugely impact older Australians’ health and quality of life. It significantly increases the risk of pneumonia, oral infections, poor nutrition and other life-threatening conditions. The economic impact of poor oral health for older Australians costs about $750m a year, yet oral health lags currently behind hairdressing and podiatry in our country’s aged care.

The Northern Rivers features a significant aged care network and Dr Matthews said it was care residents most at risk.

“Australians in care are lacking even basic oral health supplies such as tooth brushes and denture cleaning,” Dr Matthews, who has worked for the past ten years providing outreach services in aged care facilities in regional NSW said. “It’s completely unacceptable.

Dr Matthews said it was time staff were provided with proper training and education on oral hygiene.

“RACF (residential aged care facility) staff do a terrific job but often lack the time or training to carry out basic daily oral hygiene measures such as tooth brushing and denture cleaning,” Dr Matthews said. “This means elderly residents can go weeks and even months without anyone even looking in their mouth.

“It can be even worse for residents with dementia and other cognitive abilities, who cannot communicate pain and oral health problems.

“Without oral health there is no health. It’s time to stop the rot and ensure that oral health is a priority for older Australians.”


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