The Dentist Magazine.

Oral health promotion in the community

Published: 06/02/2017

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidance on oral health promotion in the community.

The new guidance outlines how local authorities can identify the oral health needs of people in local communities and also puts in place steps they can take to address oral health inequalities in those communities.

As well as carrying out oral health assessments of communities, the NICE guidance also advises local authorities to ensure that health and social care services include oral health in care plans of people who are receiving health or social care support and are at high risk of poor oral health.

They also recommend that local authorities provide oral health improvement programmes in early years services and schools in areas where children and young people are at high risk of poor oral health.

To read the full NICE guidance please visit: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs139/resources/oral-health-promotion-in-the-community-75545427440581

Reactions

Following publication of the new guidance, The Oral Health Foundation is calling on local authorities to improve their oral health services and the signposting of available dental services to local communities.

The charity is calling on local authorities, working in collaboration with the NHS and dental profession, to do more to identify the needs of their communities and offer them advice and guidance towards dental services which many people are currently missing out on.

Ben Atkins, dentist and trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, said, “We have to let people who are in need of help know that help is available for them.

"One of the first steps towards this is for local authorities to ensure they understand the needs of their communities when it comes to oral health and put in place the necessary interventions to address any problems.

“Some local authorities already run excellent and effective oral health services, work done in areas such as Tower Hamlets and the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham should be held up as a benchmark of what authorities can achieve if they put more focus on oral health.

“But, there are still some regions in the UK where oral health promotion is not treated with the priority that it deserves and as a result many people feel disillusioned with the help they can get.

“The NICE guidance includes some very common sense information for local authorities which can help change this, including carrying out oral health needs assessments in their communities to identify groups at high risk of poor oral health as part of joint strategic needs assessments.”

The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) are also calling for local authorities to utilise existing oral health services so that special attention can be paid to some of the most in need areas of society, including the elderly and people in care homes.

The organisation would like to see local authorities work closely with local services and care providers to understand the specific oral health needs of these sectors of society so that they can provide the best possible care for them.

Speaking on the need for targeted care, president of the BSDHT, Helen Minnery, said, “Providing services for groups such as the elderly, vulnerable people, children and people with disabilities or those with a combination of needs, requires different approaches and often different expertise and equipment.

“This is by all means a huge undertaking for a local authority as it encompasses so many different areas of society. That is why we believe they should be working closely with existing services, such as dental practices, to fully understand the need of their local communities and deliver the best possible care they can.

The BSDHT is also appealing to its members and other areas of the dental community to offer their expertise and resources to local authorities to help provide care to as many areas of society as possible.

Helen added, “With our help I believe local authorities can help to put into place systems which tackle oral health inequalities for people in all care systems, including hospitals and home day care too.

“The biggest challenge is for local authorities is a lack of time and resources to deliver adequate services and I believe this is a gap which we can help them bridge.