Background: Older people represent a growing and diverse section of the population. As age increases, people are more likely to experience health and mobility problems and be at higher risk of developing oral disease. Nevertheless, few older people utilise primary oral healthcare services. It is therefore important to understand the value older people place on oral health and dental services to inform providers and planners of oral health care. This research was conducted as part of a study to identify potential ways of minimising barriers to oral health care in older people. Objectives: To explore perceptions of oral health and oral healthcare services amongst older people living in a socially deprived inner city area and how these are related to service utilisation. Methods: A qualitative approach was utilised to explore the range of issues related to older people's perceptions of oral health and their views on health care. This involved a combination of focus groups and semi-structured individual interviews with older people and their carers. Data analysis was conducted using the Framework approach. Results: Response: Thirty-nine older people and/or their carers participated in focus groups. Oral health perception: Oral health was associated with the presence of natural teeth, the absence of pain, practical/social functioning, preferably supported by positive assessment by a dentist. Oral health life-course: Older people have a long and complex dental history. Past negative experiences with oral health care, especially in childhood, strongly influenced present attitudes towards dentistry and dental personnel. Citizenship and right to health care: There was a strong perception that, as 'British citizens', older people should have a right to free health care and that the National Health Service (NHS) should support them in this phase of their life. Conclusions: The oral health life-course of older people is an important influence on their perceptions of oral health and dental attendance. They consider oral health of importance and place great emphasis on their citizenship and rights of access to state funded oral health care. This raises important issues for the funding and delivery of NHS oral health care for older people.
- Older people
- Oral health