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Harlow Hospital staff shine light on oral health during National Smile Month

Dental health professionals encourage daily teeth brushing, but what if you are urgently admitted to hospital and don't have a toothbrush? Generous staff at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow have helped to solve the problem by raising funds for oral health kits to be available for those patients. Now they are smiling as they join in National Smile Month's action to promote oral health.

Image representing Harlow Hospital staff shine light on oral health during National Smile Month

Dental health professionals encourage daily teeth brushing, but what if you are urgently admitted to hospital and don't have a toothbrush?

Generous staff at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow have helped to solve the problem by raising funds for oral health kits to be available for those patients. Now they are smiling as they join in National Smile Month's action to promote oral health.

Oral health clinicians at the hospital are also leading a campaign to ensure that patients who need extra help with oral care are identified and get the extra support. They are setting up a group of 'brushing buddies' who will be on hand to support nursing staff to provide the care patients need. The teams were supporting National Smile Month (13 May to 13 June), which is primarily organised by the Oral Health Foundation with the aim of helping to improve the oral health of millions of people throughout the UK.

Kerry Flack, dpecialty doctor in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the trust, explained: "There may be a variety of reasons why a patient's mouth care is poor. They may be frail or elderly, or their personal circumstances may be such that they don't take as much care over their tooth and gum health. In hospital, in many cases, people may have been admitted to a ward urgently and don't have access to the essentials, or struggle to care for themselves adequately due to ill health."

"During National Smile Month, our message has been: don't ignore your oral hygiene. Not taking adequate care can have serious consequences. Not only can this bring pain and the need for further treatment, it can also have a big impact on general health. For instance, it can exacerbate conditions like diabetes and respiratory problems.

"We want to draw attention to the benefits of looking after your teeth and gums: not only does it improve eating, speaking and socialising without discomfort and embarrassment, it improves nutritional uptake, which in turn benefits your general health. We want to ensure that patients in hospital are helped to maintain their oral health which can support recovery and result in a shorter hospital stay."

The healthcare assistants in the Lister ward, which cares for the elderly, decided to undertake the fundraising effort to provide packs with dental care essentials. Organiser Rachel Richardson said: "Thanks go to my team-mates, Fran Haynes, Jean Turner and ward sister Arme Beard, who were all keen to support this project. With the funds raised we have obtained essentials, including toothbrushes, which we have made up into packs. It's great to know that those patients who come in urgently and don't have someone to bring these items will still have them, and we'd like to thank everyone who helped in this effort."

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