Oral Health Assessment in Acute Care Pediatric Nursing
Rachel McCormick, Alec Thomas Robin, Joan Gluch, and Terri H. Lipman
Oral health is integral to general pediatric health. Many children in the United States suffer from untreated tooth decay, and oral health disparities exist for under-resourced families. A shortage of dental providers is expected to continue into 2025. The role of acute care nurses and nurse practitioners to augment this shortage has not been fully explored. Many children in acute care settings have chronic medical problems and receive medications that may predispose them to additional oral health complications. However, oral and dental assessments are rarely completed in a thorough and organized manner in pediatric acute care settings. This article describes oral health assessment, three assessment tools that can be completed by acute care nurses and nurse practitioners, and the impact of asthma, diabetes, leukemia, Crohn’s disease, and selected medications on children’s oral health. Recommendations are presented to empower nurses to play a more active role in oral health by educating patients and caregivers, and making timely referrals to dental providers.