Professor Craig Smith

Stroke patients to get help with tooth care

Stroke patients and healthcare staff are working together to make it easier for stroke survivors to care for their teeth and gums after they leave hospital.

People who have strokes are more likely than average to have existing tooth decay and gum disease and are less likely than average to have visited a dentist in the year before their stroke.

After stroke, about half of survivors are left with a disability and around a third need help with daily living activities when they leave hospital. Having a stroke can leave patients struggling with brushing their teeth properly or putting in dentures if they are affected by the physical weakness in the face, hand or arm, lack of coordination and visual or perceptual problems that stroke can cause.

In turn, poor tooth and gum care has been linked with complications such as lung infection (aspiration pneumonia) and eating problems.

Now Professor Craig Smith, Consultant in Stroke Medicine at Salford Royal, has been awarded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) funding of £135,000 for a project to design an information and education package so that patients can care for their mouths effectively.

People who have had a stroke and are struggling to look after their teeth and gums properly say this can have a major effect on their quality of life, leaving them feeling embarrassed and self-conscious. Patients told researchers from Salford Royal, The University of Manchester and Bangor University that they would like help and advice as a priority when they leave hospital.

Prof Smith said: “Stroke survivors will help us to build a picture of the problems they face and we will also speak with healthcare professionals and carers. We will then work with them to develop a toolkit of practical help and advice. This could include demonstration videos, a guide to what materials are available and advice on accessing specialist dental services but we will be guided by what survivors want and by the evidence for different interventions.”

He added: “Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a big improvement in the numbers of people surviving stroke but people are still being left with profound problems which affect their lives. It’s important that we look at longer-term care and oral health is an area that has been neglected in stroke care so far.”

The research project (PB-PG-0815-20017) is due to start in September 2017.