Older people are more likely to have problems
Everybody over the age of 60 should be offered a free oral health risk assessment, say dentists.
And anybody who is identified as likely to need complex dental work should be referred to a dentist for a strategic long-term oral healthcare plan.
The British Dental Association (BDA) is concerned that the ageing population will present significant problems for dentists in the UK.
More people than ever before are retaining their own teeth into old age - but in many cases they require complicated dental work to avoid the need for dentures.
Oral healthcare for older people has not been given the priority it deserves
British Dental Association
Teeth retained into old age can be more prone to decay, particularly forms that are hard to treat. This is in part due to erosion of the protective enamel, but may also be linked to other factors.
Gum disease is also more common among older people.
The BDA has published a report setting out a series of recommendations to tackle the issue.
It says the configuration of dental services must take greater account of the needs of older people.
This may include the use of mobile services to ensure people can access dentistry.
The BDA is also calling for residential care homes to take a more proactive approach to ensuring their residents have good dental health.
It says homes should be compelled to comply with a set of basic local standards, for instance scheduled visits by a dental professional.
Other recommendations include:
- research into how to promote self-care by older people
- information about full and partial exemption from NHS dental charges should be simplified and publicised to older people and carers
- dental students should be given experience of domiciliary visits and care homes
- planned reform of NHS dental charges should take account of the ageing population, and the fact that older people are more likely to need complex treatment
The report says: "Oral healthcare for older people has not been given the priority it deserves.
"Whilst dental care is, of course, only one facet of healthcare for older people, it can, nevertheless, have a significant impact on an older person's quality of life and general health.
"The situation can and must be addressed starting now by taking steps to ensure appropriate and accessible oral health services will be available for the older persons population."
By 2020 the proportion of people aged 65 and above is projected to rise from a current figure of 15.7% to 18.9%.
In 1968 over one third of the total adult population of the UK had no natural teeth, and only a small number of people of pensionable age had any teeth at all.
But a survey carried out in 1998 showed that only 13% of adults had no natural teeth - and over half those of pensionable age retained at least some of their natural teeth.
It is predicted that by 2018, 56% of people aged 85 and over will have some natural teeth, compared with a figure of 19% in 1998.
The BDA report is released on Tuesday to tie in with a one day conference, Older People With Teeth, to be held in London.