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Senior dentists call for all older people to receive regular check-ups as new NHS figures highlight low attendance for over 85s

28 Feb 2020

New figures from NHS Dental Statistics for England reveal that dental attendance for some older people is worryingly low, says the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The figures show that:

  • 41.3% of adults aged 85 and above saw an NHS dentist in the two year period from January 2018 to December 2019.
  • 49.6% of all adults [aged 18 and over] saw an NHS dentist in the same time period.

Commenting on these statistics, Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: “These figures are a cause of concern. All older people, whether they have natural teeth or not, should visit their dentist regularly. This provides a vital opportunity to screen for problems such as oral cancer, which might not otherwise get picked up until it is too late.

“We are under no illusions that some older patients may not be able to attend a dental practice due to mobility difficulties. However there are ways of getting around this, for example by ensuring high quality domiciliary dental care is available for patients who require treatment at home.

“It is also important that older people have support within the community. Health and social care professionals who work regularly with older people should receive training in oral health, to help them identify if someone they care for has a problem. Equally, family members can play a key role in monitoring their older relatives’ oral health, particularly where they have a relative who lives on their own.”

In August 2017, the FDS published a report on Improving Older People’s Oral Health which highlighted that poor oral health can have a significant impact on older people’s general health and quality of life. As well as causing pain and making it difficult to speak, eat and take medication, poor oral health has been linked to conditions such as malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia.

One of the recommendations made in the report was that the NHS Dental Statistics for England should include figures on the proportion of people aged 65 and over who visited an NHS dentist, to improve our understanding of the challenges this group of patients face in accessing dental care. This has been achieved with the publication of this week’s figures, which is the first time that the NHS Dental Statistics for England have reported on older people’s dental attendance.

Other recommendations made in the Improving Older People’s Oral Health report included:

  • Social care providers should ensure that staff receive appropriate training about oral health and that all services have an oral care policy in place.
  • Preventative advice on maintaining good oral health should be easily available for older people themselves, their families and their carers.
  • Government should work with stakeholders to improve access to dental services for older people, particularly those who are unable to attend a dental practice.
  • All hospitals and care homes should have policies in place to minimise denture loss, and oral care should be part of end-of-life care pathways.
  • The importance of oral health must be recognised in any wider reforms to health and social care.


Notes to editors

  1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
  2. NHS Dental Statistics for England 2019 – 2020 can be found here.
  3. The 2017 report Improving Older People’s Oral Health from the FDS can be found here.
  4. For more information, please contact the RCS press office: telephone: 0207 869 6056; email:

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