Nearly 100 Waikato teenagers with rheumatic heart disease are at reduced risk of heart infection thanks to a collaborative initiative between Waikato District Health Board’s Community Oral Health Service and district nurses.
Bacterial complication from tooth decay can increase the risk of streptococcal sore throat (strep throat) and lead to life-threatening heart infection ‘infective endocarditis’ amongst this at-risk group.
The initiative focuses on preventing bacterial complication through distribution of Colgate dental kits. The kits contain toothbrush, paste and floss and are handed out by district nurses who visit and treat rheumatic heart disease patients monthly.
“What better time to encourage good oral health than when a health professional visits with an attractive pack?” Waikato DHB Community Oral Health manager Diane Pevreal said.
The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand says optimal oral health is maintained through regular professional care and the use of appropriate products such as toothbrushes, floss and other plaque-control devices.
“Patients need to be strongly advised to comply with a continuing oral and dental care regime. We anticipate that the improved access to community oral health services will reduce active tooth decay amongst these Waikato youngsters,” Ms Pevreal said.
The district nurses’ message to this group of 98 under-18-year-olds is simple.
“Brush twice each day, brush for two minutes, use fluoride toothpaste, spit, don’t rinse after brushing and choose water or milk to drink.”
District nurse Bev Hunt drove the initiative believing more needed to be done to promote the health of rheumatic heart disease patients during their intensive treatment.
“I also know, from experience in the community, that some families share tooth brushes and can go for up to five years without buying a new one. This poses extreme danger to those with rheumatic heart disease,” Hunt said
The initiative is funded by Community Oral Health for 2013 and funding will be ongoing if the initiative is successful.
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