CQC to Look at Oral Health in Care Homes

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, has announced a review of oral healthcare practices in care homes.

Writing about this issue Andrea commented:

“Although many residents of care homes are supported to maintain good oral health, there is evidence to show that some services struggle to provide the support people need.  The consequences can be devastating. The gruesome pictures of blackened, infected teeth CQC’s Senior National Professional Dental Advisor showed me recently were awful and I can just imagine the impact this has on people in pain or embarrassed about the way they look. I was also shocked by some of the other consequences he explained as mouth infections can spread and cause, for example, respiratory problems like pneumonia and other cardiovascular problems.”

Managing oral health poses particular challenges to those working in adult social care:

  • Residents of care homes may have poor manual dexterity, limited mobility, vision problems and cognitive difficulties.
  • Long-term conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia can make it harder to hold and use a toothbrush and go for dental treatment.
  • There are challenges for staff too who may not have the time and understanding to support people appropriately particularly if this is not seen as a high priority in the service or they face resistance from the person they are trying to assist.

Whilst oral health care is not specifically mentioned in the Key Lines of Enquiry, the CQC has expressed concern about a lack of focus in this area.

The CQC has now asked the Primary Medical Services to conduct a thematic review to gather information and produce a national report on the quality of oral health in care homes at present.  Staff will attend inspections to ask some additional questions and speak to staff and those who use services. They will also be looking at whether care homes are following the NICE guidance on oral health in care homes and if not, what the reason for this is.

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