About Healthy Smiles

“Healthy Smiles” is Jackie Whiteley’s initiative to improve the oral health of care home residents in the UK.

Through improving access to dental care, education of carers, assistance with oral care policy making and hands-on provision and support in mouth care for residents we work towards a reduction in hospital admissions for issues such as malnutrition, dehydration and aspiration pneumonia.

The vision is to link dental practices with care homes to increase contact, offer training and support to care staff and ensure care homes have an effective oral care policy in place. Improvement in the overall oral health of elderly residents in care homes is the ultimate goal!

Healthy smiles  is a bespoke and holistic service tailored around the residents and care home staff to offer a system of support and guidance with the practice of mouth care. We want to engage carers to understand the importance of oral care, embrace oral health and raise standards of oral care.  A collaborative team approach is vey much required and on-going support by dental professionals will be a key part of the service.

The majority of care home residents have untreated tooth decay and limited access to dental care, resulting in many people over age 65 needing to have teeth removed in hospital, resulting in a potential cost to the NHS of  over 27m!

1.3m suffer malnutrition and there is considerable evidence of acquiring aspiration pneumonia from inadequate oral care, particularly in residential settings, these conditions can lead to increased frailty and can be fatal.

Studies have shown that carers perceive giving oral care as an unpleasant task due to lack of cooperation from residents and difficulty accessing the mouth (Forsell et al 2). Residents resisting oral care is a major challenge for care homes as reported  in the BDA dentistry in care homes research in 2012. Barriers identified can include lack of training, lack of prioritisation by care home providers, lack of incentive, lack of time, distressed residents and poor confidence in the task.

Oral care is not a choice it is a basic human right! Often it is not delivered. Oral health can deteriorate rapidly following care home admission leading to pain and infection, if the resident suffers with dementia this may not be communicated, severely affecting quality of life.

Oral health impacts general health, diet, speech and appearance, all incredibly important to preserve dignity and quality of life. And with 90% of care home managers identified in the Smiling matters study reporting on residents needing help with mouth care, help and support from dental professionals is very much needed!

The 2019 ”Smiling matters”  CQC report into mouth care in care homes highlighted a lack of access to dentistry and lack of support given to care staff by the dental profession. Their findings were that:

1/2 of care homes were not training staff in mouth care

¾ of oral care plans did not include oral health

1 in 6 homes were not assessing oral health on admission

1 in 3 homes were not accessing dental care

What will a Healthy Smiles Consultant do for the Care Home?

  • Create links between care home and their local dental practices
  • Provide repeated training in mouth care to all hands-on staff and managers, incentivise care-givers to attend training (includes oral health assessment training)
  • Provide resources to assist in mouth care
  • Recommend, promote and demonstrate appropriate dental products
  • Assist care managers to set up effective oral care policy and become CQC compliant
  • Dental professional on-site regularly  in the home to over-see mouth care and give support
  • Offer train-the-trainer – promote idea of oral care champion within staff
  • Provide on-going support to the home as required – eg training new staff, monitoring of implementation of mouth care

Read more about this project on our Press Page