Nursing Procedures for Oral Care in Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Myiera Seymour

Authors:  Myiera H. Seymour and Dr. Leslie Parker, APRN, Ph. D

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Leslie Parker, APRN, Ph. D

College:  College of Nursing


Oral care guidelines are available for adult and pediatric populations, but universal guidelines are nonexistent in the neonatal intensive care unit. This project is aimed to determine current nursing oral care procedures. 132 neonatal nurses were surveyed during a neonatal nursing conference. Responses were anonymous. Over 95% of nurses surveyed agreed that oral care for hospitalized infants is important. 59% of the surveyed nurses had a formal protocol for their hospital however, only 36.7% of those nurses stated their unit adequately addressed oral care practices. 86% of nurses surveyed stated they performed oral care procedures independent from hospital protocol. To perform oral care, nurses used colostrum (32.6%), sterile water (28.6%), breast milk (27.3%), normal saline (6.73%), or other products (4.77%). Of the NICUs with a formal oral care protocol, 63% of nurses responded that oral care procedures were the same for all infants. Frequency of oral care varied with 55% performing oral care with every hands-on time, 16.6% every shift, and 28.8% as needed. Although the majority of nurses stated that oral care for infants in the NICU is important, tremendous variation in care exists. Research is needed to determine a universal procedure for oral care in these vulnerable infants.

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20 Responses
  1. Diana J Wilkie

    Myiera, Excellent presentation of very interesting findings. Isn’t it interesting to see how little things could make a difference. Good luck as you change our world. Keep up the great research!

  2. Dilan Patel

    As a future dentist, this incredibly interesting research study draws a lot of personal interest. Do you know if there are any strides being made by not only NICU researchers but also Oral microbiologists? I also strongly believe that there needs to be a streamlined set of guidelines that demonstrate the most efficient way at preventing infection in oral cavities of infants. This study should draw heavy interest from the dental field and their overall push to making changes on a clinical level. Please reach out,, if you would like to discuss how we can help bridge the two the fields and help translate your findings to tangible changes clinically.

    1. Myiera Seymour

      Dilan, that is a very interesting point. I am sure that with the connection of these fields it is possible to come up with a less intensive, but still effective way to prevent infection in the NICU. I will be reaching out!

  3. Elisabeth Osorio

    Hi Myiera,
    Thank you for sharing your research. You have done a great job.
    I have a question:
    What clinical evidence is available to demonstrate the importance of infant oral hygiene, if any? In other words, why is keeping infants mouths clean important for their health?
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Myiera Seymour

      Most infants in Level II NICUs are highly susceptible to infection. It is important to recognize this because although they produce similar, if not the same, types of oral flora as term (healthy) infants, they are not able to properly fight against them due to weaker immune systems. That is why it becomes extremely important to keep oral cavities free from excess bacteria.

  4. Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini

    Congratulations on the work done!! Hope you are considering pursing this research a little further. Perhaps as PhD student? Thank you for the work done!

  5. Staci-Jo Heron

    Myiera! I am so proud of you!!! You published your very first research and I anticipate many more to come.