How to undertake effective mouth care and oral assessments
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to undertake effective mouth care and oral assessments

Richard Hatchett Senior nurse editor, RCNi, London

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the importance of mouth care in promoting oral health and comfort, and preventing or treating disease

  • To enhance your understanding of the procedure for undertaking an effective oral assessment and mouth care

  • To identify oral health interventions that could be used in patients with severe oral conditions

Rationale and key points

Mouth care is an essential aspect of a patient’s overall oral hygiene. Nurses may be required to undertake an oral assessment and/or mouth care in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, residential care or in patients’ homes. Therefore, they must ensure they have the knowledge, confidence and skills to do so effectively, while ensuring they work within the limits of their competence. The patient and their family and/or carers should be supported to be involved in mouth care where appropriate. This will enable them to develop the ability to monitor and maintain the patient’s oral hygiene.

• Any oral assessment and/or mouth care provided should be person-centred and include the use of a reliable and locally approved oral assessment tool. The frequency of any mouth care will depend on the outcomes of the assessment and the patient’s needs.

• It is important for the nurse to understand the various factors that can result in suboptimal oral hygiene and to reduce these where possible.

• Nurses should take an evidence-based and standardised approach to care by accessing the clinical guidelines available for mouth care and severe oral conditions such as mucositis. These guidelines detail interventions such as the use of mouthwash for moistening the oral cavity or providing pain relief.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

• How this article might improve your practice when undertaking mouth care.

• How you could use this information to educate nursing students or your colleagues on the appropriate technique and evidence-base to maintain the patient’s oral hygiene.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11756

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Hatchett R (2021) How to undertake effective mouth care and oral assessments. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11756


Please note that information provided by Nursing Standard is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed according to policy and procedures. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 20 September 2021

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