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Should Foam Swabs Be Used For Oral Hygiene?

Foam swabs are a tool sometimes used for oral hygiene. This is especially true for those who need assistance because they are unable to adequately perform their own oral care or for those who are experiencing mouth sores with cancer treatments. Unfortunately, even though foam swabs have proven to be less effective for plaque removal than brushing, they are still widely used today.

Bacterial plaque causes inflammation of the gum tissue that contributes to developing gum disease and increases risks for mouth sores during cancer treatments. Dental plaque is also the cause of tooth decay. Consistent and effective plaque removal is essential to prevent oral and respiratory infections that can potentially spread into the bloodstream for those with a weakened immune system.

Choosing an extra soft or post-surgical toothbrush with a compact head will provide more effective plaque removal than use of a foam swab. Post-surgical toothbrushes are ultra-soft like a baby's hairbrush. Soaking the brush in warm water before use can make bristles even softer. Softer bristles, along with a compact head, will make plaque removal more comfortable and reduce risks of tissue irritation and abrasions from toothbrush trauma.

Toothbrushes should be replaced at least every 3 months or at the first sign of bending or fraying of the bristles. The softer the bristles, the more quickly they will bend and fray. Replacing your toothbrush frequently can also help to reduce bacterial buildup on your brush.

Practicing good oral hygiene is an important component to preventing complications during cancer treatments. Choose the best tools to achieve the best results.

Sources:

Oral care considerations during the patient’s cancer treatment

A comparison of the ability of foam swabs and toothbrushes to remove dental plaque.

A controlled trial to compare the ability of foam swabs and toothbrushes to remove dental plaque: implications for nursing practice.

Oral Care Intervention to Reduce Incidence of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia in the Neurologic Intensive Care Unit

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