A review of dental service provision for people living with dementia in north Merseyside undertaken in 2014-15, highlighted a number of issues with access to dental services and dental care provision from the perspective of patients, carers and clinicians.
‘Dementia Friendly Dentistry’ was consequently identified as a priority for the NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside) Commissioners and the Local Dental Networks and work of on the Dementia Friendly Dentistry programme has been continuing since 2015.
During its first year, the programme brought together the skills and experience of a wide group of colleagues from Liverpool University Dental Hospital, the Alzheimer’s Society, local Community and Primary Dental Clinicians, Public Health England and Oral Health Improvement Services with the overarching aims are to improve the delivery of dental care for those living with dementia, and to raise awareness of the importance of daily mouth care and regular dental attendance.
During its first year, the programme focussed on the development of a ‘toolkit’ for the primary dental care team. The toolkit provides advice and links to key guidance to support the development of ‘dementia friendly’ practice environments, and improve clinicians’ confidence in planning and providing appropriate dental care for people living with dementia with a particular emphasis on careful planning of dental treatment and establishing effective daily mouth care as soon as possible after diagnosis. This will reduce the risk of acute and ‘difficult to treat’ dental problems developing during the later stages of dementia.
The toolkit was published in May 2016 and distributed to all NHS dental practices across Cheshire and Merseyside alongside a series of related peer review meetings.
There are currently around 80 dental practices developing action plans and engaging in staff training to make themselves more ‘dementia friendly’.
The programme was recognised as the ‘Partnership of the Year’ by the Alzheimer’s Society in November 2016. Following on from first phase of the programme working with dental practices, a link to dementia post diagnostic services is currently being tested: a brief intervention about dental health and attending the dentist, is being included in information sessions for those who are newly diagnosed with dementia and their carers. This will promote the importance of a dental assessment with a local ‘dementia friendly’ dental practice.
Recognising that provision of dental care, particularly in the later stages of dementia can be challenging, a dental care pathway is also being developed to ensure that as much dental care can be provided close to home in a familiar setting, but where necessary, there is ready access to special care dental services.