Objective To explore NHS dental service utilisation (attendance and treatment activity) of older adults.
Design Retrospective analysis of dental treatment claim forms (FP17s) over a 15 month period.
Population A total of 690,433 older adults in North West England.
Results NHS dental care attendance decreased with increasing age; 49% in 65–74 years, 39% in 75–84 years and 23% in the over 85 years age group. Across all older age stratifications, the more deprived patients had a higher rate of examinations, extractions, dentures and preventative advice compared to the least deprived patients. However, the relationship was opposite for the rate of fillings and complex restorative treatment; the rate was higher for the least deprived older adult patients.
Conclusions Despite 95% of older adults living in the community, the number of older adults accessing NHS dental care in this data set is thought-provoking. Additionally, there is a complex relationship between the type of treatment provided and the patient's IMD level. The authors acknowledge the major limitations of this dataset; affluent people are more likely to access private dental care and the availability of NHS dental services is likely to vary across different regions. However, the use of 'big data' is necessary to provide a pragmatic approach for future research in the management of older adults in general dental services.