family, health care professionals, oral care, oral health, palliative care, patients



  1. Bernardes Delgado, Maria LMD, MPH, ResM
  2. Latour, Jos PhD, RN
  3. Neilens, Helen PhD, EN(g)
  4. Griffiths, Sarah PhD


Oral symptoms in a growing number of palliative care patients are often neglected. Dental professionals are not always involved in palliative care. Oral care is often inadequately delivered to palliative care patients, while oral problems can affect the quality of life. A qualitative study was conducted to explore oral care experiences of palliative care patients, their relatives, and health care professionals (HCPs). Four patients, 4 relatives, and 4 HCPs were interviewed in a hospice. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis and revealed 3 themes. Patients who were capable of performing oral care mainly brushed their teeth and looked after their dentures. Other care tended to be carried out by relatives and HCPs, adapted based on a person's level of consciousness. When describing the effects on oral health, relatives and HCPs tended to focus on xerostomia, whereas patients provided detailed accounts denoting the psychological and social impact of oral symptoms. Perceptions of enablers and barriers to oral care differed between groups. Patients reported lack of access to professional dental care and patients' fatigue were the main barriers to oral care. Nevertheless, there is great scope for further research into good oral care practices identified in this study and possible implementation in other settings.