Table of contents


Adults :: Dental health in adults :: Summary

Oral health refers to the condition of gums, teeth, surrounding bone and soft tissues of the mouth enabling function and being free of disease and pain. Although oral health in England has improved significantly over the past 30 years, not all have benefited from these improvements. According to the national Adult Dental Health Survey of 2009/10, one in five South East Coast adults has untreated tooth decay, most of whom are likely to be from lower socio–economic backgrounds. In addition, some 7% of adults reported experiencing some pain from their teeth or gums at the time of the survey. A significant minority of older adults also suffer from gum disease.

Tooth decay is largely preventable. The risk factor is a frequent and high sugar diet, which is also common to diabetes and obesity. The availability of topical fluoride such as in toothpastes, varnishes and mouth rinses helps to prevent tooth decay.

Key issues and gaps

• Inequality in uptake of primary care dental services
• Current available data suggest 20% of adults in South East Coast have active tooth decay and 25% of older adults have severe gum disease, with 7% reporting pain
• The need for specialist dental services needs to be reviewed.

Recommendations for consideration by commissioners

• Promote orientation of primary care dental services to focus on prevention in line with Delivering Better Oral Health — a toolkit for prevention (Department of Health, 2009)
• Improve uptake of services by local residents through provision of information to support uptake
• Improving access to specialist services
• Promote development of an appropriate skills–mix workforce in order to meet the dental needs of the population effectively and efficiently
• Review the provision of domiciliary services according to evolving need
• Develop oral health promotion initiatives for the elderly and other vulnerable adult groups
• Develop stronger links between dental services and quit smoking services
• Robust, annual monitoring and evaluation of dental practices