Background Patients who rely on dentures do so not only for eating and communication but also as part of their identity and self-esteem. In 2017, denture losses in hospitals were estimated at 9,500 by the British Dental Association. This project was devised following the death of a patient who had lost her dentures during her final illness in hospital, which impacted upon her ability to eat and to communicate with her family and healthcare professionals.
Aims To assess the impact loss of dentures has on patients and to increase awareness amongst clinical staff regarding difficulties encountered by these patients.
Method A questionnaire was given to patients with dentures across two medical wards, inquiring:
How loss of dentures would impact upon them?
Had they been provided with a denture pot?
A ‘Denture Reminder Form’ was provided for attachment to the admission documentation with the aim of improving the use of denture pots.
38% of patients with dentures were offered a denture pot, falling to 16% after implementation;
95% of patients felt it impacted their ability to communicate and 79% on their ability to eat;
In 2018, 7 claims for replacement dentures were made costing £969.
DiscussionCurrently, the Trust has no standardised admission documentation making it difficult to ensure the form is regularly used, and there were instances of the form being discarded completely. Healthcare professionals witness the impact on patients’ quality of life, but have not recognised a simple intervention which can reduce denture losses together with the ‘Mouth Care Matters’ campaign (https://mouthcarematters.hee.nhs.uk/).
Conclusion We have ‘one chance to get it right’ (Department of Health, 2015) and for patients at the end of their lives, maintenance of their self-identity, self-esteem and ability to communicate and eat is as important as the medical care they receive. There are improvements that can and must be made to promote good oral care at the end of life.
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