Objective: To summarise what is currently known about the oral health of older adults in England and Wales.
Basic research design: Summary of the main findings from a recent review of oral health surveys and demographic and health data relating to older people in the UK (West Midlands, North West, Bolton and Kirklees, East London and the City of London and Wales). Their findings were compared, where possible to estimates from the 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey.
Findings: A higher proportion of older adults in England and Wales have untreated caries and signs of severe caries than the general adult population. The majority of dentate residents in the care homes surveyed had untreated caries. Despite the poorer oral health of residents in care homes, managers of such services report difficulty in accessing routine and emergency dental care.
Conclusions: Existing epidemiological data in England and Wales show that older people in residential and nursing care homes have poorer oral health than the general adult population and inequitable access to dental services. Greater comparability and utility would be gained from regional oral health surveys if standards were agreed for this age group with regard to sampling, consent, questionnaires and clinical measures.