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Media Coverage in The Senior newspaper: No requirement to clean residents' teeth says ADA chief

29 June 2019
The Senior Newspaper
Author: Eileen Wood 


In this article in The Senior newspaper, ADA NSW President Dr Neil Peppitt said in residential aged care facilities there is no requirement to clean residents' teeth or even offer access to dental treatments. He warned the health of older Australians would continue to deteriorate unless sweeping changes were made to oral health care in the country's aged care homes.


Residents of NSW aged care facilities may go days or even weeks without having their teeth cleaned, according to the Australian Dental Association NSW.

"In residential aged care facilities (RACFs) there is no requirement to clean residents' teeth or even offer access to dental treatments, said ADA NSW president Dr Neil Peppitt.

He warned the health of older Australians would continue to deteriorate unless sweeping changes were made to oral health care in the country's aged care homes.

"It is commonplace for residents to go days and weeks without having their teeth cleaned", said Dr Peppitt. 

"In the few RACFs providing access to dental health care, dental practitioners line up behind podiatrists and hairdressers.

"Good oral health is central to the overall health of people of all ages, but especially older Australians. 

Stop the rot

"The impact of poor oral health on an elderly person's overall health can be devastating. It can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions such as malnutrition and pneumonia.

"It is a basic human right that this vulnerable sector of our community is able to live free from oral pain and have the best quality of life. It's time to stop the rot and ensure that oral health is a priority for our elderly population."

The 4500 member strong organisation, which is the peak body representing dentists and dental students in NSW, has made a submission to the Aged Care Royal Commission calling for a shake-up of dental services for older Australians. 

It wants to see:

- a Medicare-funded oral health assessment by a registered dental practitioner for those aged 75
- an oral health assessment for every resident entering an RACF
- a direct and ongoing relationship between all RACFs and local dentist practitioners
- an appropriate oral health referral pathway for every older adult, whether they are community-living or living within an RACF.

It is thought that only half of the almost 70,000 NSW residents living in residential aged care received a dental assessment on admission.

"It is a basic human right that this vulnerable sector of our community is able to live free from oral pain and have the best quality of life. It's time to stop the rot and ensure that oral health is a priority for our elderly population," Dr Neil Peppitt

With approximately 20 per cent of the NSW population forecast to be aged 65 or older in 2026, Dr Peppitt said the issue needed to be addressed now.

"RACFs provide a vital service caring for vulnerable older people, but for various reasons they are often unable to treat residents' oral health needs," Dr Peppitt said.

"Independent adults living in the community must have access to appropriate oral health care, while those living in residential aged care and assisted living facilities require oral health care be provided as part of their overall health care plan. 

"In addition, older Indigenous adults require access to oral health care services that are culturally appropriate and correctly delivered," said Dr Peppitt.

The ADA NSW has also recommended ongoing support for existing oral health education and awareness programs to target family members and carers of older adults living in the community.

Click here for the online version of The Senior article 

Click here for the print version of The Senior article on page 9

Click here for ADA NSW Submission to Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety 

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