Palliative care patients are susceptible to oral problems that can impact their oral functions and quality of life. Regular mouth care is therefore an important aspect of palliative care, aiming to prevent oral problems before they arise, and optimizing comfort.
Common Oral Problems
- An infection of the fungus Candida albicans
- Commonly appears as white plaques on the tongue, palate, and inside the cheeks
- Possible causes: poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, antibiotic use, poor immune system
- Your medical team will prescribe antifungal treatment
- Subjective sensation of dryness of mouth
- Possible causes: mouth breathing, oxygen use, certain medications e.g. opioids
- Inflamed and sore mouth
- May occur anywhere in the mouth including the lips, inside of cheeks, gums, tongue, and palate
- Possible causes: Head and neck radiation therapy, infection, dry mouth
- Bad breath
- Possible causes: poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, coated tongue
Mouth care in the last hours of life
Oral cavity and tongue
- Apply white soft paraffin or over-the-counter lip balm over dry, cracked lips
Dentures (if any)
- If able to drink and swallow, provide ice chips or sips of water
- If unable to drink or swallow, use oral swab sticks to apply water or oral care agents (e.g. Oral7 Mouth Gel) liberally over the tongue, palate, inside of cheeks
- Use ¼ tsp sodium bicarbonate in ¼ cup water to clean tongue coating
- Remove dentures, and brush thoroughly with denture brush and warm water
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Article contributed by Palliative & Supportive Care