Nurses working in care homes across the UK should be placing more of a focus on helping residents to look after their oral health, a new report states.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) wants to see nurses helping patients to brush their teeth twice a day in a bid to protect their oral health, prevent gum and mouth infections and make them feel a little better about themselves.
Statistics from older people's charity Age UK indicate that approximately 426,000 people live in care homes in Britain, with the vast majority of these individuals over the age of 65. However, investigations conducted by NICE have led to the discovery that standards of oral care can vary significantly from home to home.
As a result, the healthcare body wants to see minimum standards of oral hygiene care introduced throughout the country's residential care homes, with nurses to play a key role in delivering this care.
NICE has introduced a new draft quality standard that states nursing staff should carry out an assessment of each care home resident's oral health needs upon their arrival, with these to be recorded in their personal care plan.
Then, as a minimum, all residents should be assisted in either brushing their teeth twice a day or in cleaning their dentures once each day.
Professor Elizabeth Kay MBE, a consultant in dental public health based at Plymouth University and NICE specialist committee member, commented: "Looking after someone's mouth should be as much a part of the care expected as ensuring their personal hygiene and providing adequate clean clothing.
"Helping care home residents with this basic daily routine maintains not only their oral health but, just as importantly, enhances their dignity and self-esteem."
A consultation on these new draft standards will now take place until February 3rd, after which time it may become a mandatory requirement for all nurses based in care homes to assist with teeth or denture cleaning.
Written by James Puckle
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