Mouth Care Matters in the Community: Reflection on visit to a care home in Kent

Na Yeoun Kim – Dental Core Trainee in Community Dentistry and Dental Public Health reflects on her visit to a care home.

As a dentist working in a Community Dental Services setting, I examine and treat many patients who are resident in care homes. They often come in with their carers. However, I had very limited exposure to such patient group during my undergraduate study and I soon realised the necessity of improvement in my understanding of life in a care home environment. So I arranged a visit to a care home with nursing in Kent.

Upon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by the care home manager. I also met many other care staff as I went around the care home. This was an excellent opportunity for me to identify various challenges that they face as they provide daily mouth care to their residents, and to discuss how these challenges could be overcome. For example, a significant number of residents wear partial or complete dentures and it becomes extremely difficult for the residents or the care staff to recognise whose dentures they are if found in the communal area. Therefore, it is recommended that all dentures are labelled appropriately in order to prevent such issues.

Extremely rewarding

Furthermore, as a member of the ‘Mouth Care Matters in the Community’ project team, it was extremely rewarding for me to discover that the carer training sessions that Health Education England delivers are being adopted by the carers when they return to their care homes. Oral care plans are drawn based on the oral care needs assessment of each individual patient. All care staff were completing residents’ daily care chart to demonstrate that all residents were receiving their daily mouth care. The care staff who use these tools on a regular basis described them as:

  • self-explanatory,
  • very-easy-to-use tools that
  • can be adopted immediately.

During the visit, it has been brought to my attention that there is now greater demand for such tools from the care home managers. Especially in preparation to the care home inspections by the Care Quality Commission , and also with publication of the guideline on ‘oral health for adults in care homes’ from National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. The Mouth Care Matters tools effectively demonstrate the care home’s compliance level with the current regulations and guidelines. Which is why it is favoured by care staff at all levels.

Invaluable experience

It truly was an invaluable experience for me to learn about the care home environment. It can now help me adapt the way I approach these patients.  Reflecting this in their management and treatment when they attend for their dental appointments. I feel more confident in providing advice that is more appropriate to the care home setting. I would certainly recommend the new dental graduates with limited experience in community dentistry to explore and familiarise themselves with such environments and patient groups.