By Margaret Heale, RN, MSc, CWOCN
Oral health is more than just important. As a child in a family supported by the state, we could afford hot water for a bath only once a week, but I cleaned my teeth twice a day and had regular dental visits. At school, we were taught to brush our teeth, and the twice a day routine was reinforced. I remember as a 16 year old showing my junior charges the scuzzy stuff at the gum margin and telling them it was called plaque. At nursing school, I once again was taught how to brush teeth, and we practiced on each other. Oral hygiene may seem irrelevant to wound care, but there is no doubt that the mouth can release bacteria into the bloodstream and be the root cause of deep bone infections after orthopedic surgery, pneumonia in intensive care unit (ICU), and subacute bacterial endocarditis.