NOVEMBER 2012 • PEER-REVIEWED FEATURE
At Deer Lodge Centre, oral care practice for adult dependent patients often included the use of sponge swabs and liquid mouth rinse, but the facility had no formal policy outlining best practice. The authors sought to develop such a policy by answering two main questions: Are sponge swabs effective in cleaning the oral cavity? What oral care is required for individuals with dysphagia and those who depend on others for oral care? After a review of the literature for pertinent guidance, a new protocol for oral care, based on tooth brushing and use of antibacterial gel, was implemented for one care unit. Patients showed improvements in oral health, specifically reductions in tartar, swollen and bleeding gums, ulcerations, debris and severe halitosis. Staff members were initially resistant to change, but resistance declined as they witnessed the benefits of tooth brushing. The use of sponge swabs also declined. This intervention confirmed that tooth brushing is appropriate as the gold standard of good oral care and showed that sponge swabs are ineffective for removing plaque. These principles have become the foundation of oral care policies and care plans at this facility.