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Guide on oral health and homeless for district nurses

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The Queen’s Nursing Institute has launched guidance for community nurses about how to support people who are homeless to improve their oral health.

The guidance – titled Oral Health and Homelessness: Guidance for Community Nurses – includes advice nurses can give to re-connect patients with community dentists, to address fears and phobias, and to give practical advice for patients about looking after their teeth.

“The QNI created this guidance to arm community nurses with more knowledge”

David Parker-Radford

The 10-page guide highlights information about the three major preventable oral health conditions – periodontitis, oral cancer and caries – to help patients who may have concerns about seeing a dental professional.

The guidance was created in response to “stark” evidence that people who are homeless are in need of much more targeted and earlier dental treatment, said the institute.  

A 2012 study of patients at a homeless dental service in East London found 99% required treatment and they showed a greater incidence of tooth decay than the general population.

The guidance, written by dental health experts and researchers who work with the homeless, was developed as part of the institute’s Homeless Health Project.

David Parker-Radford, who is managing the project at the QNI, said: “People experiencing homelessness have reported that their oral health is very important to their self-esteem.

“Substance use, poor nutrition, heroin replacement drugs, lack of access to toothbrushes and toothpaste can all contribute to tooth loss, gum disease and even mouth cancer,” he said, 

“These conditions are all preventable and the power of an oral health conversation between a patient and a trusted and understanding nurse cannot be underestimated,” said Mr Parker-Radford.

He added: “The QNI created this guidance to arm community nurses with more knowledge to have these conversations and develop more practical support on a more regular basis.”

  • A free PDF of Oral Health and Homelessness: Guidance for Community Nurses is available by contacting lauren.knight@qni.org.uk
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