Minister for Public Health and MSP for Falkirk West Michael Matheson today launched a new dental strategy for priority groups.

The strategy will improve dental care for older people, the homeless and those with learning disabilities who often experience poor oral health.

Mr Matheson launched the strategy at a visit to a care home in Fife which has taken part in the Fife Oral Health Care Award, a pilot scheme helping to raise standards of oral care for care home residents. The new strategy will build on the work of the Fife pilot project.

A survey of residential and nursing home residents in Glasgow found that dental treatment was needed by approximately half of residents, with six per cent needing urgent treatment.

It also found that 73 per cent of those residents who had their own teeth had tooth decay and a third needed fillings or extractions.

The new strategy, backed up with £1.4m funding a year over the next three years, will ensure that people in these priority groups get the treatment they need to prevent oral disease.

It introduces a range of new, specially tailored Smile programmes, targeted at preventing oral disease for these priority groups. Childsmile and the new Smile programmes will be brought together under the title Smile Scotland, ensuring a consistent approach to improving oral health across Scotland.
The strategy will see a programme introduced building on pilot initiatives like the Fife Oral Health Award, which includes staff training in oral care, oral health assessments for residents, toothbrushing, dental referrals, fluoride varnish and working with the community dental service.

In launching the strategy Mr Matheson said: “This new strategy will help ensure that everyone in Scotland, including Falkirk district has access to effective preventable healthcare.

“In many cases, all that people is needed is basic oral care and on going daily maintenance to prevent serious tooth decay and disease. The Fife Oral Care Award is an excellent example of how some very simple steps can make a real improvement to oral health and it’s the kind of thing that will be rolled out across the country under the new strategy.

“It is vital that we tackle the kinds of problems identified in the care home survey in Glasgow both at a national level and here in Falkirk and I’m confident the strategy will do this.

“Maintaining oral health can be very challenging for vulnerable groups and this new strategy will make sure that these people have the same opportunities as others to enjoy good oral health.”