Happy teeth, healthy heart

When staff working on Edgar Stephen Ward noticed the cardiac patients they were treating often required dental treatment, they decided to approach the Department of Dentistry, proposing a joint project to improve dental hygiene and health among patients.

The project aimed to identify the problem, and then plan and evaluate an intervention, which they hoped would lead to a reduction in the significant dental issues seen in many of these patients. An accompanying project was undertaken by Dr Jana Nikolvskim, Registrar in Paediatric Dentistry, to evaluate the staff, theatre time, admission and dental procedures to identify a substantial reduction in the number of surgical interventions required.

“The Edgar Stephen Ward team developed a group to explore the issue, and the cause of the problem had a number of different layers. We figured that the best place to start was the beginning, so we developed an educational package for nurses, patients and families to show the importance of good dental care. We also developed formalised pathways for high-risk patients to ensure they are seen by a dentist from an early age,” A/Prof Richard Widmer, Head of Dentistry, said.

Special backpacks have also been designed to distribute to cardiac patients, containing dental care products provided by Colgate, to encourage good dental hygiene routines from an early age.

Pleasingly, after the educational package and pathways were in place for one year, the oral health knowledge both in families and staff has significantly improved.