Mouth care: why it matters − highlighting a neglected care need
Oral health care is integral to general wellbeing, allowing people to eat, communicate verbally and socialise without discomfort or embarrassment. In relation to people being admitted to hospital, poor oral health care has been linked to longer hospital stays and increased care costs. It is also associated with an increase in hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia and can affect nutritional intake, which is vital in supporting recovery. Assistance and encouragement with effective and daily mouth care can prevent deterioration in a patient's oral health, and yet it remains a neglected and overlooked area of care provision. Initiatives have attempted to address this neglected area of care but the pandemic and other priorities have allowed it to be lower on the healthcare agenda. Nurses, healthcare assistants and student nurses form the largest group of the healthcare workforce, providing or supervising the personal care of patients in hospitals and the community. Therefore, oral healthcare assessment and practical skills should be embedded in education and be given a strong focus and leadership to ensure that good practice is consistently implemented across all health and care settings. Mouth care really matters and should be integral to all health and care encounters. Further research and investigation into the important but neglected area of mouth care is also required.
Oral health is an indicator of overall health, wellbeing and quality of life (World Health Organization, 2022). Good oral health allows people to eat, verbally communicate and socialise without discomfort or embarrassment. Oral health care forms an integral part of general health care, is often overlooked and is frequently identified as needing improvement (Terezakis et al, 2011).
Dental diseases are prevalent among both adults and children in the UK, with most people at risk of developing dental disease at some point during their lifetime (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), 2019). Tooth decay, gum disease and dental erosion are the most common conditions, with the rarer but most serious disease being mouth cancer. Dental disease negatively affects quality of life with the main impact being pain, low self-esteem and absences from work and school (OHID, 2022).
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