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If you want to “keep smiling” you need to know why mouth care matters

I’ll be honest from the outset – I probably haven’t given the issue of oral health in care settings as much thought as I now realise I should have! The presentation by Katy Kerr, Regional Dental Adviser at Health Education England, at the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) Annual Conference held as usual at The Dutch Church, Austin Friars, London on 19 April 2018 was quite a revelation for me. It coincided with the launch of ‘Keep Smiling – mouth and teeth care for older people’ published by the R&RA.

There is a huge amount of wisdom in a book with only 40 pages! This short guide is a wonderful introduction into an issue too easily overlooked.

Written and edited by Janice Gardner and Emma Williams this handbook is intended for frontline care workers supporting older people both in residential care settings as well as home care. It has particular relevance for people whose dementia or disabilities means that they are unable to manage their own mouth and teeth.

It is a practical guide, written in a refreshingly jargon-free style, with hits and tips that will enable care workers to understand the issues surrounding good mouth care and to develop the skills necessary to deliver quality care and support. It covers the importance of observation and being able to assess as well along with the key practical steps to cleaning someone’s teeth and mouth. It includes
useful information on the importance of food and drink to good health.

I’ll be recommending ‘Keep Smiling’ to every care provider I know!

It’s my guess that brushing someone else’s teeth is something for which most care workers won’t have much experience, especially new workers, and something many might prefer to avoid. The helpful steps in this guide will really make a difference to thinking about how best to support someone needing assistance. There is also a section on common problems and the warning signs it is useful for care workers to be aware.

The good news is that improvements in health (and dentistry) mean that many more older people have more of their teeth than they did even a generation ago. And we understand much more of the value that this brings to general health and wellbeing than we did a generation ago. However, given that the majority of older people living in care homes have some form of dementia, the need to assist people with oral health is now much more necessary than it may have been in the past.

There is a huge amount of wisdom in a book with only 40 pages! This short guide is a wonderful introduction into an issue too easily overlooked. It should be a required part of the learning and development of every care worker and certainly a part of everyone’s induction training. I’ll be recommending ‘Keep Smiling’ to every care provider I know! You can get a FREE download here and order a copy here.

Des Kelly OBE

April 2018


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