Oral Care Matters

September 30, 2019

 

I’m not fond of having my picture taken, the person holding the camera shouting cheese as everyone gathers round and puts on their best smile can seem like an eternity. Then there’s the next step, the anticipation of what the final picture may look like; have I pulled a huge grin or not smiled at all?!

A picture however can reveal an aspect of ourselves that we have not seen before, good oral care can be clearly seen, or the reverse noticed. Maintaining good levels of oral care is paramount for everyone, none more so for people reliant on support and care from providers. It is increasingly important that older people have a healthy mouth, as poor oral health can lead to a number of health problems such as diabetes, pneumonia and heart problem, as well as poor nutrition. As part of a provider’s responsibilities it is also paramount that oral care is considered when providing support to a customer.

The Oral Care Process

In order to support with oral care, providers must undertake an oral health assessment as part of their initial care plan review with a customer and regular reviews should be undertaken thereafter in relation to the maintenance of the person’s oral hygiene. As per the NICE guidelines on Oral health, it may materialise that support is required for certain customers to maintain their oral hygiene on a day to day basis and this should be documented within the care plan for carers to follow. Oral health should be given the same priority as personal care and any concerns in relation to the condition of a customer’s oral health should be raised as these could be warning signs and precursors to an underlining health problem.

In addition to documenting within the care plan what is required, providers must also ensure that their staff and carers are trained in assessing and supporting customers with oral hygiene requirements. The NHS Health Education England website provides free e-learning support on oral health to compliment the Care Certificate. Providers should support their staff in being competent and knowledgeable in oral hygiene and this is a key aspect being looked at by the regulator. CQC’s recent ‘Smiling Matters’ report lifted a lid on both the positive and improvement areas that are being seen in relation to oral care in care homes; learning from this can be taken across all sectors of the care industry and developed to ensure that outstanding services in this area are evident.

Top Oral Care Tips

As oral care progresses across the sector some useful questions to consider for your service include:

  • Do you assess a customer’s oral care needs?
  • Do staff have mandatory oral care training?
  • Do customer’s maintain regular check-ups with a dentist?
  • Are best practice elements being shared to ensure learning and development across your service?
  • Is oral hygiene promoted across your service?

The regulator will be looking at this area more and more during inspections and so it is important that providers highlight the work they are doing in relation to oral care.

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Emily Kerrigan

Domiciliary Care Policy Lead

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