Nurses missing lifesaving opportunity

Oral health checks upon hospital admission must become routine practice to help eradicate mouth cancer, says a dental charity.

The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has expressed concern after the online journal for BioMed Central (BMC) published a survey stating that less than half of hospital nursing staff carried out routine oral health checks.


Such check-ups can prove integral in curbing cases of mouth cancer, which kills one person every five hours in the UK.


Early detection of oral cancer is a key part of the campaign against the disease, improving survival chances to 9 in 10 cases. BDHF chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘Nurses have an opportunity in their role looking after oral health of their patients, as hospital admission provides the perfect opportunity for oral cancer screening.


‘Just as we encourage dentists to ensure they carry out screenings and discuss the issues with patients, we hope to see health professionals across the industry take action and improve awareness.’


The BMC survey showed that, although more than 80% of nursing staff believed oral health checks were important, just 49% routinely carried them out. Though 7 in 10 nurses identified smoking as a major cause of mouth cancer, only 3 in 10 pointed another major cause, alcohol.


Awareness of the telltale signs was also low, although recently qualified staff were better at identifying warning signs, some 5% of nursing staff had not even received oral health awareness training.


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