The importance of oral hygiene in care
Roger Daniel is CEO at Red Homes Healthcare. Having grown up working in and around care homes, Roger has vast experience in delivering care. Here he discusses how important it is to have an oral hygiene policy in place…
CQC research released earlier this year found that 52% of care homes were without an oral health policy, and 73% of care didn’t sufficiently cover dental health. This is such an important but often overlooked aspect of care that protects residents’ oral health and in turn their overall wellbeing.
Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia which affect a person’s ability to brush their teeth effectively, medications which reduce saliva and the fact that natural teeth are now maintained for longer all lead to greater oral health problems. For those in our care. we must not only address these issues as they arise but also put initiatives in place to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
The effects of poor oral hygiene in care
A bad oral hygiene routine can severely impact a person’s wellbeing and if we as caregivers are not on top of residents’ oral health it can have significant implications.
Loneliness is something which all of us in the care sector are aware of and having teeth which we are uncomfortable with others seeing can lead to low self-esteem and a resident not partaking in social activities. This results in them feeling disconnected and unable to build relationships with those around them.
Aside from the cosmetic implications that bad oral hygiene can have on a resident’s self-esteem, not upkeeping oral health can have numerous repercussions on physical health. Just some of the these include:
• Respiratory issues as a result of ingesting bacteria from gum disease (recognised in The Journal of Periodontology)
• Cardiovascular disease, put simply, as a result of bacteria entering the bloodstream, travelling to the heart and causing plaque to build up in the arteries
• Inflammation of the mouth (stomatisis) resulting from a lack of dental care
• Increased symptoms of diabetes, as gum disease makes it harder to manage blood sugars. Those with diabetes are also more prone to gum disease.
The steps towards positive oral health
When someone moves into a care home, they should undergo a full oral health assessment as this helps to identify any issues from the outset. Some simple questions this initial evaluation should include are how they normally manage their oral hygiene, what dental aids they currently use, whether they have dentures (checking they’re clearly labelled if so) and whether they already have a dentist.
If dental information is recorded using the oral health assessment tool recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and specific needs are outlined in someone’s personal care plan, it’s easier to keep on top of ongoing dental requirements. This also ties in greatly with offering person-centred care which is tailored to each individual.
In order to maintain a positive dental routine, it’s important that staff are aware of how they can best support residents. This includes the basics of general oral hygiene such as brushing their teeth or dentures twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using their preferred products.
As well as a good daily routine, staff must be aware of the implications that bad oral health can have on residents’ wellbeing and know the steps to take if they are concerned about a person’s dental condition. Working alongside doctors, dentists and community nurses is key to ensuring all aspects of optimum health.
Having an effective oral health policy in place can have a huge impact on confidence and social skills, which helps those in care build relationships with both staff and other residents – massively increasing their quality of life. Not only this, but it ensures that residents are able to enjoy food comfortably and can get the night nutrition they need to keep fit and healthy.