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sMiley: Good oral care helps children with cancer

All children in the Princess Máxima Center will soon receive an oral care pack called sMiley. Good oral care is very important for them from the moment of the diagnosis is made. Due to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or medication, children often get a sore mouth and brushing their teeth is a challenge in itself. Ida Bremer Ophorst, pediatric oncology nurse and member of the oral care project group: ‘Good oral care reduces complaints and contributes to a better quality of life.’
Ida Bremer Ophorst has been working on improving oral care for children with cancer for some time. There is a lot to be gained, says Ida. ‘Children can have irritated or damaged mucous membranes, produce a lot of tough mucus in their mouth, and have dry and chapped lips, which is very painful.’ So the idea is to put together an oral care pack. Ida: ‘We've called the pack sMiley, with the capital M referring to Mouth and Mucositis. We want to improve oral care by distributing the packs and giving specific advice. Screening by a dentist or oral hygienist at different times is also very important. We want to involve them more and better in helping children with oral complaints.’

Improvement project
The Máxima Center is revising the guideline for oral care in children with cancer. The improvement project addresses the involvement of a dentist and oral hygienist before, during and after treatment for cancer. Ida Bremer Ophorst: ‘It is particularly important to make children, parents and professionals aware of the oral care guideline. We want to emphasize and facilitate the importance of a healthy mouth by means of the sMiley packs and the screening by the dentist. We plan to carefully study and evaluate the experiences and outcomes of the improvement project.’ The oral care project group, which consists of nurses, doctors, a dentist, oral hygienists, a pain consultant and nursing consultants of the Princess Máxima Center, was nominated for the Onco Care Challenge.

Award ceremony
The improvement project recently gained momentum. ‘The prize we won at the Onco Care Challenge enables us to purchase the sMiley packs and organize the screening,’ says Ida. In this competition, oncology wards or hospitals challenge each other to present the best care innovation. Ida pitched the oral care plan on November 18. ‘It was very exciting but also fun to hear and see a thunderous applause, even online! It wins us a financial contribution of 3,000 euros to carry out the improvement project. The oral care packs will be put together shortly. We want to use part of the money to buy a mobile dental lamp to facilitate screening of the mouth.’