[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 00:43 GMT
Elderly 'fuelling dentist demand'
Elderly people are retaining their teeth
An increase in people keeping their teeth well into old age is placing unprecedented demand on dentists, a report for the government says.

The British Society of Gerodontology report said dental health among older people had improved since 1945.

But they often needed restorative work on their teeth, such as crowns and bridges, requiring much greater care and maintenance than dentures, it said.

The society wants more dentists trained to look after elderly people's teeth.

In 1968:
Number of people with no natural teeth - 37%
Number aged 65-74 with no natural teeth - 79%
In 1998:
Number of people with no natural teeth - 13%
Number aged 65-74 with no natural teeth - 36%
By 2025 it is predicted that up to 80% of those aged 65 and over will have at least some of their own teeth
Figures for England and Wales

In previous decades it was generally accepted that old age for virtually everyone meant losing most, if not all, of their teeth.

However, now nearly half of the UK population aged 85 and over are expected to retain at least a few natural teeth.

The report said part of the increased demand for dental services this generates will be offset by a reduction in demand from younger people, due to less decay and fewer fillings.

However, it recommended older people should be entitled to an extended consultation with a dentist to plan out their long-term dental care needs.

The report also recommended that more dentists are trained in gerodontology - the science of looking after older people's teeth.

Care homes

Another recommendation is that care home workers, community nurses and pharmacists should have the relevant expertise to advise older people on looking after their teeth.

Trudie Wassell, 77, has several crowns and bridges, most of which have been replaced three times over the last 50 years
She said: "I've always taken pride in the fact I have my own teeth - I have feared getting dentures. I know friends who have suffered with ill-fitting false teeth, and the thought of taking dentures out at night did not appeal to me. I've also paid great attention to eating a healthy diet and I'm sure that keeping my own teeth has contributed to achieving this."
She now receives regular treatment at a private dentist

Frail, older people living in care homes are particularly vulnerable to poor dental health.

The report said it was particularly important that care homes encouraged healthy eating, regular oral hygiene and the use of routine dental services.

Professor Jimmy Steele, a consultant at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, worked on the report.

He said: "This change in oral healthcare demands is going to hit the NHS hard in the next decade or so.

"These people, who were born during the early years of the NHS, have benefited from regular dental treatment throughout their lives and they have higher expectations as a result.

"They want to keep their teeth, but to do so they will need a lot of professional attention from dental teams who have a sound training in Gerodontology."

Dr Janice Fiske, another member of the review group, and a consultant at King's College London Dental Institute, said: "It is well recognised that a healthy dentition contributes to helping individuals maintain better general health.

"It is important that older people receive support in maintaining a healthy dentition as this impacts heavily on their lifestyle, general health and self-esteem."

Acting Chief Dental Officer Barry Cockcroft said: "It is great news that more elderly people are keeping more of their own teeth, reflecting how oral health has improved vastly over the past 30 years, but there is still more to do."

One dentist explains why the industry is facing another crisis

Many dentists 'set to quit NHS'
28 Nov 05 |  Health
Q&A: Dentist reforms
06 Jul 05 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific