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#NurChat - Should red trays be a red flag for needing oral care?

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Did you miss the latest #NurChat twitter debate about oral hygiene? Let us sum it up for you …

@MikkyWatt suggested that #NurChat discussed oral health following a previous chat on fundamental care which had touched on the subject and many participants had mentioned it as being an important part of care. I was looking forward to this chat as I feel that as nurses, we are responsible for ensuring that our patients are able to maintain their own oral care, or to assist them with it, and that oral health is an essential part of fundamental care.

This NurChat started by asking what NurChatters first thoughts on oral care were:

@PhilipRABall tweeted “I think good oral hygiene is essential if we expect people to swallow food drink and medicines”.

@anniecoops stated “Oral hygiene was one of the first nursing skills that I was taught”.

@HollyBest1 stated it very succinctly when she tweeted “Oral hygiene essential part of nursing care considering the purpose of the mouth is to eat, drink, breathe and communicate”.

One of the participants of the chat - a nurse from the Netherlands @salpetrazuur - stated that “in NL it was announced today that the healthcare inspector will pay specific attention to oral hygiene”. She went on to tweet “apparently research led to questions in our government”. This very much underlines the importance of oral hygiene.

Many aspects about oral hygiene were discussed and a full transcript can be found on the NurChat Blog, but one of the prevailing issues was about how nurses are taught oral care.

There were varied experiences:

@Bartontd tweeted “Oral Hygienists do a day with our pre reg students early on in the course - common sense maybe- but should be taught”.

@girlzmum stated “I remember doing one session on oral care, brushing teeth etc”.

@PhilipRABall tweeted “It was given brief coverage in block but mostly older nurses taught me oral care on placements”.

One of the closing issues to be mentioned was the correlation between poor oral hygiene and malnutrition.

@PhilipRABall tweeted “Research question: Would be interesting to see of correlation between red tray required and oral / denture health?”

It is on this point that I find myself reflecting - when we see a red tray should it be a red flag to set us thinking and assessing the oral health of that patient? In my own experience I have certainly found that some undernourished patients have loose teeth or ill-fitting dentures.

Conversely, I have also found that those patients who are undernourished and not hydrated develop mouth conditions such as oral thrush. This very much to underlines the need to see each patient holistically and that sometimes it is the simple things that become very impactful in peoples’ health and wellbeing.

The fact that nutrition and oral health go hand in hand is certainly not rocket science - but the next time I see a red tray it will be most definitely be a trigger for me to do more than just assist with meals and drinks.

Teresa Chinn heads up NurChat for Newcross Healthcare Solutions - Nurchat is a fortnightly twitter chat for nurses exploring different topics that vary enormously.Anyone can suggest a NurChat discussion subject simply by tweeting @NurChat or by visiting the NurChat blog.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am currently a student nurse and can't believe how squeamish some qualified nurses are about performing oral care, particularly when they seem to deal with other bodily fluids without any problems. We recently recieved a head and neck cancer patient onto the ward who had an extremely dry mouth and excess mucous secretions which he did not have the dexterity to deal with himself. For 3 days no-one had attempted oral care to make this man comfortable which resulted in him being unable to eat. I started carrying out regular oral care on him resulting in him feeling much more comfortable but when I asked this to be carried on at handover the other nurses (including the ward sister) gave looks of revulsion and stated they could bear to clean mucous secretions out of someone's mouth! This problem must be addressed as I am sure this is not an isolated incident.

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