Putting the mouth back in the body

CDO ExpoLast week’s Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016 highlighted some of the biggest health and care issues and developments.

One session of particular interest to dental professionals on the second day of the event was Putting the mouth back in the body, which presented an evidence-based approach to making oral health an integral part of general health.

The Putting the mouth back in the body session focused on how and why delegates could be adopting an innovative model of oral healthcare to improve and safeguard the health and wellbeing of elderly patients.

Led by Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for NHS England, the session saw Mili Doshi, consultant in special care dentistry at Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and Philip Preshaw, professor of periodontology at Newcastle University, present an evidence-based approach to making oral health an integral part of general health.

Mouth Care Matters

The first half of the session explored Mouth Care Matters – an initiative that utilises dental care professionals to improve the oral health of hospitalised adult patients. Good oral hygiene practices are essential in hospital to ensure the maintenance of good oral health and in turn, good general health, which saves a lot of NHS-funded care.

Run by the Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and supported by Health Education England for Kent, Surrey & Sussex (HEE KSS), Mouth Care Matters is a simple but highly effective intervention, which is not just about oral health but is also demonstrably improving the overall quality of care and the general health of vulnerable and frail patients.

‘This good practice must be shared and it is why it deserves special consideration at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016,’ said Sara.

Mouth care is sadly neglected in many patients admitted to hospitals, especially in elderly care wards. This lost opportunity for improving quality of care is contributing to extended hospital stays for vulnerable patients and, above all, compromises the compassion and dignity of valued patients.

The factors at play vary from clinicians’ lack of knowledge of mouth care – often not taught at undergraduate level – to misunderstanding the impact of poor oral health on general health. This includes the reduced ability to eat and drink, and take medication. And this can be put down to the clinicians’ lack of priority or time in a busy care schedule.

The HEE KSS innovation has brought together a volunteer team of dedicated staff as the oral health champions that support the development of core knowledge and the application of an oral health tool kit with a simple recording of mouth care into key departments.

The audited outcomes are impressive with improving quality of care, hydration and nutrition levels and reduced length of stays.

‘This simple but effective innovation deserves to be replicated at the national level,’ said Sara.

Delegates who attended the session on the second day of Expo 2016 learnt how and why adopting this model of oral healthcare could improve and safeguard the health and wellbeing of elderly patients in hospitals.

Sara concluded: ‘The mouth is an integral part of the human body and directly relates to the quality of life in the long term. Every patient has a mouth and therefore every care pathway must reflect the enduring need for oral care.

‘We must start putting the mouth back in the body.’

Periodontal diseases and diabetes

The second half of the session drew on the effects of periodontal diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis) due to diabetes.

People with diabetes have a three-fold increased risk of developing periodontitis compared with those without the condition. Many people with diabetes are unaware of this increased risk and may have undetected gingivitis or periodontitis due to the painless nature of the diseases, and diagnosis and treatment in this population is often delayed or absent.

Professor Preshaw argued that there is a need for greater awareness of the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes among people with diabetes as well as among members of their healthcare delivery teams.

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