Dental neglect is rife says geriatric specialist

A visiting dentist based in Perth says dental care in nursing homes is consistently sub-standard.

A geriatric dentist from Perth has gone public with a scathing criticism of oral care in aged care facilities.

Dr Clive Rodgers – a senior dental lecturer with the University of Western Australia – has told ABC TV’s Lateline that the level of neglect he has witnessed in nursing homes is tantamount to abuse.

He added that many homes should not be receiving accreditation because of the poor quality of the dental care they provide.

“The thing that disturbs me most is seeing someone who is in pain,” said Dr Rogers. “Yes, having pus draining into their mouth, abscesses, they disturb me. “

Dr Rodgers has compiled a photo library to demonstrate the extent of the problem and he has surveyed 18 visiting dentists across the country.

“Out of those 18 people, 89 per cent of them said that they didn’t believe that the standard was being met.”

Dr Rodgers told Lateline that he has lodged complaints with the accreditation agency and the Department of Health and Ageing, which he says both rejected his claims.

The Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said the Australian Government takes Dr Rodgers’ concerns seriously, adding that nursing home operators have a legal obligation to provide proper dental care.

Mrs Elliot also said that the accreditation outcome (Expected Outcome 2.15) which deals with dental care will be examined as part of the government’s review of the accreditation standards.

“This is the first review of standards in 10 years and it governs the quality of the nation’s nearly 3,000 nursing homes,” Mrs Elliot said. “The Review of Accreditation Standards is due to be finalised in late-2009.”

The CEO of Aged and Community Care Victoria, Gerard Mansour said providers were appalled by allgeations of serious neglect.

He said more funding was needed for dental health services.

“Our members are very concerned at the long waiting lists which can occur to get residents into community dental health services, or the dental hospital, which is the only way the elderly poor can receive care,” Mr Mansour said.

In 2007-2008, the Complaints Investigation Scheme received 51 complaints about oral hygiene and dental health in aged care facilities.

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