Dentists warn older Australians at risk unless oral care improved

aged care dental
Photo: george rudy – 123rf

Millions of older Australians will continue to risk developing chronic and life-threatening diseases and suffer unnecessarily unless current oral care health services are transformed, the Australian Dental Association NSW has warned. 

A Medicare-funded oral health check-up for over-75s, ensuring access to toothbrushes, denture cleaning and daily oral hygiene measures and improved dental health education for aged care workers were among the recommendations outlined by ADA NSW president Dr Kathleen Matthews at last week’s hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

“Australians in care are lacking even basic oral health supplies such as toothbrushes and denture cleaning,” Dr Matthews said. “It’s completely unacceptable. 

“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. 

“While Medicare looks after the general health of our adults, the mouth gets left behind. Making oral health assessments a routine, Medicare-funded procedure would help radically improve the oral and general health of older Australians in care.” 

Dr Matthews outlined ADA NSW’s recommendations for improving oral treatment for older Australians receiving care at the hearing.

“Aged care staff and carers do wonderfully looking after older Australians, but often lack the time and training to provide oral care,” Dr Matthews said.

“The oral health care needs, including a health assessment on admission, basic oral health hygiene such as tooth brushing and denture cleaning and access to professional oral health care are not being met. 

“ADA NSW’s recommendations would help address the significant lack of oral health care currently facing older Australians.” 

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