The importance of mouth care

Claire Fletcher is a Specialist Dental Nurse in the Maxillofacial and Dental Department at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Here she tells us about her role, the Mini Mouth Care Matters programme, and why it’s crucial that mouth care becomes part of basic care.

The role of a specialist dental nurse

My role is unlike any other dental nurse post I have ever had over the years. The patients we see at GOSH have very rare conditions, are seriously ill or have multiple complex medical and behavioural needs.

As well as the typical nursing duties that we have organising and supporting clinics, we run a nurse-led oral hygiene clinic, visit wards to give advice, and take part in projects that promote oral health within the hospital. 

After training in paediatric dentistry, working at GOSH was always a dream of mine. Since joining three years ago, GOSH has created a platform for me to get my ideas across, teach other health care professionals about what we do and the opportunity for projects, audits and presentations are endless if you put yourself out there.

My favourite part of the job is working with patients and their families. It’s an absolute honour to be involved with their treatment and patient experience. Some of the youngest patients we see are so inspiring and it’s always a pleasure to be involved in their care in some way.

Mini Mouth Care Matters programme

There is a direct link between general health and oral health. The Mini Mouth Care Matters (MiniMCM) is a Health Education England (HEE) funded initiative and it aims to empower all healthcare professionals to take ownership of the oral health care of any paediatric in-patient with a hospital stay of more than 24 hours.

My part in MiniMCM is to provide the dental nursing perspective to the training, information, and policy write up.

The programme aims to create a healthcare team that is more responsive to patients’ oral health. It includes:

  • An oral health policy and tooth brushing chart, fully adaptable to any hospital Trust
  • An oral health screening tool to identify patients who may be at a high risk of developing oral problems
  • A training package to encourage all health care professionals to “lift the lip” and identify common oral health/dental conditions
  • A range of tools that can be used by all hospitals hoping to join Mini MCM, including posters, booklets and baseline audit tools.

I support the project lead Urshla Devalia and I've developed a bitesize version of the programme so that time-restricted nurses can do a 30-minute training module. If they require more training, we can put them on the full one-day course through HEE. 

I hope the initiative continues to get people thinking and eventually becomes part of legislation. The time, money and resources saved just from oral health maintenance will surprise everyone!

Oral health advice for families and staff

When it comes to good oral care, my three top tips for families and healthcare professionals to remember are:

Make sure you, your patient or child is registered with a dentist and sees them at least every 6 months

Brush twice a day - once during the day and once at night with a fluoride toothpaste

Spit, not rinse - when brushing, spit the excess toothpaste out and do not rinse with water.