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The importance of dental health for older people

The Relatives and Residents Association is launching its Keep Smiling campaign to highlight the importance of dental health for older people. As part of the campaign it has produced a handbook and associated video.

The handbook has been developed to help anyone caring for older people, whether in residential care or at home, and for people whose dementia or disabilities make them resistant or unable to manage their own mouth and teeth care.

In 2017, leading dentists estimated that 1.8 million or more over-65s have an urgent dental problem and that there is an urgent need to improve dental health for older people.

Judy Downey, Chair of the Relatives and Residents Association explained what a crucial area of care dental health is, and that it matters not only for good health, but for all aspects of wellbeing and self esteem. 'Older people today are more likely to keep their natural teeth than ever before. They have higher expectations of a healthy mouth and looking good.

'As the handbook points out, it’s hard to keep smiling when you’ve got toothache or a problem with your mouth. As a person’s ability to care for their teeth and dentures gets harder so does the general health of their mouth unless they have the support of those who care for them.'

The Keep Smiling handbook and its associated video show dental care in action in different care settings. Together they aim to give a deeper insight into the things to think about, the questions to ask and the practicalities of how to help with the essential and intimate matter of keeping a healthy mouth.

They show useful skills, tools and techniques. They also give guidance for assessment and planning and introduce some of the professional dental services to which older people have access whether in the home or locally.

The initiative is supported by the Oral Health Foundation. In the guide's introduction, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, the Foundation's Chief Executive said, 'We in The Oral Health Foundation are excited to lend our support to The Relatives & Residents Association in the publication of Keep Smiling. This is an initiative which should help improve the lives of older people across the country.'

The handbook will be formally launched at the Relatives & Residents Association Conference in London on 19th April.

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