Vomiting-related dental erosion: what nurses need to know

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vomiting-related dental erosion
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Oncology nurses are equipped to handle vomiting that can occur from cancer treatments. However, they may be less confident in treating the dental erosion that can go along with it, according to a US study. 

A researcher from Molloy College, New York, recently evaluated 14 articles on dental erosion and best practices, and presented the findings at the 2020 ONS Bridge virtual conference.

“Dental erosion is a complex clinical condition that is not well-known by lay people or by non-dental health professionals,” said Patricia Mulvaney-Roth, explaining that erosion occurs when dental hard tissue erodes. This can be a result of drinking excess soft drinks or alcohol, or by the mixing of hydrochloric acid from gastric juices formed by the stomach lining—what happens when a person vomits.

All of the articles used in Mulvaney-Roth’s literature review evaluated acids and the role of dental erosions. But there were some differences between the studies, too.

Four articles said that rinsing with plain water or saltwater after vomiting potentially reduced dental erosion. 

Four articles recommended that individuals do not brush their teeth for 60 minutes after vomiting. In this time period, dental enamel is still soft. 

Five articles stated that the use of commercial mouth washes with active agents reduced dental erosion after vomiting.

Five articles looked at the salivary defence mechanism and how it affects dental erosion.

“[There are] some important things to look at here. A patient’s own oral hygiene self-care can mistakenly worsen dental erosion, tooth sensitivity and tooth breakage, because they’re running to brush their teeth after a vomiting episode,” Mulvaney-Roth said. 

“If dental erosion is left unchecked, certain cancer patients who survived the cancer illness phase can eventually suffer long-term mandibular and maxillary problems. Once lost, enamel cannot be replaced.”

Ultimately, it was found that saline rinses may be the best defence against tooth decay after vomiting. However, Mulvaney-Roth emphasised that both patients and clinicians need to be better educated on dental health.

This story was sourced from an article on the Oncology Nursing News website.

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