Oral health deteriorates during periods of hospitalization, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
Researchers examined the oral health of 162 patients on arrival and two weeks later, discovering a rise in gum disease and levels of plaque. The bacteria in plaque wears down healthy gum tissue and may cause infections. In these cases, bad breath may be a red flag of underlying symptoms like gingivitis.
When bed-ridden, taking care of one’s teeth and gums may get placed on the back burner. But the main problem, researchers identified, is that many facilities have no policies in place for routine oral health practices, and no members of the health care teams assess patients’ oral health conditions during the hospitalization. Besides watching out for gum disease symptoms, those who are sick, have the flu or a cold may come down with post nasal drip, where mucus runs down the back of the throat instead of through the nose. Post nasal drip is especially common when patients’ sinuses are congested.
Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, believes the study points to a need for brushing and flossing practices to become a greater priority during hospital stays.
“In a challenging hospital environment it may be inevitable that oral care is seen as a low priority, but it is clear that more needs to be done,” Carter explained. He also mentioned that family members, friends and other loved ones who visit the hospital may be able to help with that difference.
“There are guidelines for the provision of oral care in hospital settings, but as the research points out, there is limited detail for carers,” the doctor pointed out. “The help of close family and friends during hospital stays can make a difference to this aspect of their care and well-being and more should be done to encourage their involvement.”
Visitors could bring the patient’s toothbrush, a pack of floss, alcohol-free mouthwash rinse and any other items necessary for oral hygiene.
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