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Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2004 Apr;20(2):69-76.

A survey of the oral care practices of intensive care nurses.

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Department of Oral Health Services Research & Dental Public Health, GKT Dental Institute, Caldecot Road, London SE5 9RW, UK.



Intensive care unit (ICU) patients have complex oral care needs. Inadequate oral care may predispose ICU patients to nosocomial infections. Recent initiatives have sought to improve the quality and evidence base of ICU oral care provision.


To describe the current priority given to oral care, the knowledge and practice of oral needs assessment and oral care methods, and adherence to the local ICU oral care protocol of ICU nurses working in one hospital.


Self-administered questionnaire survey of all nurses working in adult ICU ( n = 160 ).


Replies were received from 103 (response rate 64.5%). On average, oral care was given a similar priority to other aspects of personal care. 13.5% nurses rated oral care as a low priority. Whilst 98% nurses routinely performed an oral needs assessment, only 26% used a written assessment tool. Toothbrushes were used at least once a day by 85.5% nurses and chlorhexidine products were routinely used by 50.5% nurses. The oral care practices of most nurses matched the local ICU protocol. 23.5% nurses had received no training in oral care and 58% nurses requested initial/further training.


Most oral care methods were appropriate, based on the available evidence. A small minority of nurses gave oral care a low priority and were not using evidence-based oral care methods recommended in the local ICU protocol. Encouraging the general use of oral needs assessment tools is a priority, and further oral care training is required.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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