Care homes are being deprived of dental services
Care home manager Liz Wynn said her residents had to wait months for dental treatment
A care home manager said it had become an "impossibility" to get NHS dentists to visit her elderly residents when they needed treatment.
Liz Wynn, of Southminster Residential Home, near Maldon in Essex, said she had battled for years for site visits.
It comes as a health watchdog revealed that 25% of care home providers said their patients were denied dental care. NHS Mid and South Essex said it was considering a number of approaches to improve access for housebound patients.
Ms. Wynn said the shortage of NHS community dentists available to come into the home to carry out check-ups and treatment had been an "on-going concern" for almost 10 years.
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She had previously written to the government about the issue.
Residents have their mouths checked daily so carers can spot any problems
"I do feel very passionate about it and these people deserve the care from the dental services - it's so wrong," she said.
"They do come in - but it takes a long time because they're under so much demand," said Ms. Wynn.
"It would take them three to four months to get into a home to see the resident you've called them to see.
"Ideally, what we'd like is for our residents to be seen once every six months and at least once a year, but this is just not happening."
Ms. Wynn said the home relied on its oral care home procedures - such as checking residents' mouths daily - to prevent problems from escalating.
However, she said while its residents were "our family", conditions such as dementia made it difficult to spot when patients were in pain.
She also said poor dental hygiene in the elderly could result in a number of potentially life-threatening infections.
Care home owner Azeem Raja said he felt his residents were deemed second class citizens by some dental providers
The home's owner Azeem Raja urged some families to try to find a private dentist to treat their relatives, although this was not always practical.
"When you mention a resident in a care home, they're somehow a second class citizen - dental practices are simply not prepared to deal with them," said Mr Raja.
"Most care homes are in the same situation - they're deprived of dental services, the health of the residents is suffering - if the teeth aren't looked after, you will lose them quicker.
"Oral health affects a person's health, their wellbeing, their ability to eat, swallow, digest food eventually.
"It's something we believe in passionately and it's one thing we've found increasingly challenging more recently."
'Teeth decaying and breaking'
Sarah Cawte's aunt Isabelle moved into the Southminster home a year ago, but has not seen a dentist since then.
Isabelle has dementia and had to have several teeth extracted after the Covid lockdowns.
She now has some broken and decaying teeth, exacerbated by her new-found desire for sweet foods.
Sarah Cawte's aunt has not seen a dentist since moving into Southminster Residential Home last year, despite problems with her teeth
"Some people with different forms of dementia are drawn to very sugary foods," said Ms. Cawte.
"The carers are really good about making sure her teeth are cleaned twice a day... but it's the ongoing worry that at some point there could be an infection, which is a hazard when you've got teeth decaying and breaking.
"I've been looking at other options such as registering her with my own dentist, but they've got a long waiting list.
"I don't think it should be as difficult to get somebody to come into a care home.
"There are some people who are bed bound - I would have significant difficulties getting my aunt to a dentist."
In a report published last month, the Care Quality Commission said the proportion of care home providers who said their residents could "never" access NHS dental care had risen from 6% in 2019 to 25% in 2022.
NHS Mid and South Essex received the delegated responsibility for the commissioning of NHS dentistry services from NHS England in April 2023.
It said: "We are committed to ensuring everyone can access high quality dental care; this includes residents residing in care homes.
"We are currently considering a number of approaches to improve access for patients who are housebound or those in residential care homes who are not able to attend dental surgeries. "Urgent dental care is available for anyone who needs it, and people should continue to use the NHS 111 service for advice on where to go."
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was working to improve access to NHS dental care by investing more than £3bn a year.
"We reformed the NHS dental contract to encourage more dentists to provide NHS treatments and allow dental therapists and hygienists to offer extra services, and increased the amount practices receive for high-need patients.
"There were over 500 more dentists delivering NHS care in 2022 than in 2021, but we know there is more to do and we will be announcing further measures to improve access across the country soon."