A trip to the hospital can be stressful and overwhelming. Once the emergency aspect of your visit has been resolved, it’s important to take care of your mouth during overnight stays. Long hospitalizations can lead to infections and expensive dental problems if a few preventive measures aren’t taken.
*Medications- There are hundreds of medications that potentially cause dry mouth. We depend on saliva to keep the teeth and gums moist and many intravenous and oral medications given to hospital patients can increase the risk for mouth lesions and decay. If not on a water restriction, swish and drink as much water as possible to keep your mouth and teeth hydrated.
*Procedures- Ventilators, scopes, oxygen masks and tubes can cause breaks in the skin, bruising on the lips and even accidentally broken teeth. Make sure to let hospital staff know if you have any bumps or scrapes after these types of procedures. Warm salt water does wonders for minor lesions and they can provide lip and skin ointments when needed.
Hospital Food- Often times, hospital food bland and full of starches. Bacteria love carbohydrates and their colonies will keep growing unless you take the time to reduce their numbers. Also, juices, teas and soda are loaded with acids. Try to end the meal with swishing water. Sugar free mints or sugar free gum right after a meal will bring the pH in your mouth back to normal by stimulating salivary flow.
*Staff- It is common for hospital staff to be overworked and unfortunately sometimes uneducated when in comes to dental care for their patients. The toiletries they provide often include a toothbrush and paste but sometimes go untouched. Request the staff give reminders for two brushing sessions a day to decrease infection risks in your mouth. If you aren’t able to get out of bed, they can bring those items right to you.
If you or a family member has a hospital stay for more than a couple days, we highly recommend a small overnight kit with these items:
Chapstick for dry lips
Plastic toothpicks or floss piks
Biotene paste or gel specially formulated for dry mouth
Sugar free mints or lozenges
For Family Members: If the patient is bed ridden and over medicated, unconscious or incapacitated, try to make sure someone brushes their teeth at least once a day. Monitor the lips, gums and teeth for signs of infection and ask the hospital staff for help if you see any cause for concern. As soon as they are well enough, schedule a checkup with their dentist for a thorough examination.