The whole clinical team at a large hospital in London is being trained to ensure that oral health is a central part of the care being provided to children there.
Paediatric dental consultant Urshla Devalia and specialist dental nurse Claire Fletcher are helping to implement a pioneering new programme called Mini Mouthcare Matters (Mini MCM) at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London in what is hoped will become a national initiative.
Under the programme, Devalia and Fletcher will train nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors working at the hospital in the importance of oral healthcare, stressing that a simple toothbrush can be critical to health and well-being of seriously ill children.
In future, staff on paediatric wards will integrate dental health into the overall care they offer, meaning that they will, for example, ask young patients – or their parents – if they have brought in a toothbrush for their overnight stay and when they last saw a dentist.
The programme, funded by Health Education England and GOSH will be working in collaboration with Birmingham Children's Hospital, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital and University College London Hospitals with a view to rolling the programme out nationally in 2019.
Devalia, a member of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry's (BSPD) executive committee, said her aim was to empower all healthcare professionals working in hospitals with paediatric wards to incorporate oral health into the care routine.
Devalia said: 'Our young patients are already struggling with complex and serious conditions. It's vital that there is no risk of an infection in the mouth which could cause complications in their treatment. By integrating dental hygiene into overall care, health professionals can take every opportunity to highlight how important a healthy mouth and teeth are to general well-being.'
To support ward nurses and healthcare assistants, the initiative will be developing:
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 nursing, medical and health care professionals to 'lift the lip' and identify common oral health/dental conditions
A range of tools applicable to paediatric in-patients that can be used by all hospitals hoping to join Mini MCM, including posters, booklets and baseline audit tools.