Dental Health: Older People

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:59 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 7:59 pm, 27th February 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that on the record.

Fourthly, in addition to health services, care home providers and dental professionals, regulators can play an essential role by monitoring standards of oral care and driving improvements. The Care Quality Commission in England does not explicitly look at oral health during its inspections of hospitals and care homes, although I understand that it is doing a lot of work behind the scenes to try and push that on to the agenda for care providers, which is obviously welcome. Health and care regulators in other parts of the UK can also make a valuable contribution to ensuring that the importance of oral health is recognised by those that they inspect.

Lastly, I continue to look forward to the publication of the Government’s long-awaited social care Green Paper. Given the importance of oral health to our wider health and wellbeing, an all-encompassing model of care for older people must include dental services, so it will be important that the Green Paper clearly sets out how social care and dental services can work together in the future and what more can be done to ensure that older people have access to dental services when they need them. As I have mentioned, one of the most valuable things we can do to improve older people’s oral health is to ensure that it is not overlooked amid the many other issues that we are dealing with, and I hope that the Government will show leadership on that in the Green Paper.

Oral health can sometimes seem like a small issue, but it has a significant impact on quality of life. The Minister will be aware that we have spoken a lot in recent years about the need to improve children’s oral health, and quite rightly so, but it is also essential that we do not take our eye off the other groups who need support. For an older person who is in pain because of an oral health problem, finding it difficult to eat or speak, or who may be distressed at the loss of a denture that will take weeks to replace, such issues are very real. We can all contribute to addressing them, including Members who care for older relatives in our everyday lives. Indeed, the Faculty of Dental Surgery published some useful advice over Christmas about using visits to older relatives as an opportunity to check their oral health and for how to spot the signs that they might have an oral health problem. That is something that Members could do over Easter when visiting elderly relatives, and we could encourage our constituents to do the same. However, I hope that the Minister will recognise that Government also have an important role to play and will look carefully at what can be done to help improve oral care for our older people.