What Are The Safe Oral Care Product Alternatives To Banned Pink Foam Mouth Swabs?

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covered mouth

Innovation in safe oral care products for the elderly, vulnerable and for end-of-life care has been painfully slow until very recently, causing a challenge to care homes and hospitals who are trying to deliver safe oral care but without access to fit for purpose products available.

Oral Hygiene Management Guide
MD Jo Bonser told us:

‘Customers have been approaching us asking what are the safe alternatives to the pink oral swabs?

We know that since 2012 Foam Mouth Care Swabs have been on a Medical Device Alert (MDA/2012/020) and their use banned in Wales and many NHS trusts throughout the UK following a fatality when the sponge head became detached and dislodge in a patient’s mouth.

There have also been over 800 patient safety incidents issued by the MHRA relating to choking and aspiration risks from the pink oral swabs.

tooth paste and brush

I wanted to source an alternative solution for our customers so I searched for a safe, fit for purpose product and I kept searching, as, at the time, there weren’t any new innovations on the market.

Because of our passion for patient safety and only providing fit for purpose solutions, we made the decision to discontinue the more traditional oral care products that were past their sell by date – these being the pink foam mouth swabs because of the choking risk and the lemon & glycerine mouth swabs, as glycerine is known to have a drying effect on the mouth which is counterproductive.

So, initially all we were able to recommend was

Gauze Swabs And Toothpaste

An alternative to mouth sponge swabs is non-fraying gauze
Gauze squares are ideal for removing debris, plaque and dry mucus from the lips and oral cavity.

Damp the gauze in water and wrap it around an index finger to remove plaque and food debris from the inside of the mouth. A pea-sized amount of non-foaming toothpaste may be applied to the gauze when removing plaque from the teeth. The importance of plaque removal from the mouth and teeth is to lower the bacteria levels in the oral cavity It is important to also remember the sense of wellbeing a clean mouth has as it is sometimes forgotten.

Click on each image to find these products on our website

reliswab cotton gauze swabs bp

oralieve ultra mild toothpaste

However, I am quite a tenacious person if I can’t solve something initially, I never forget, like an elephant!


Then around 18 months later we finally sourced the “swizzle stick”, now better known as

MouthEze Oral Cleanser

An innovative, ergonomically designed Class 1 medical device, for use in delivering safe mouth care, without the choke or aspirating hazard of pink sponge swabs or the awkwardness of toothbrushes.

Moutheze can be used by clinicians and carers to:

  • Lubricate the lips, tongue and soft tissues inside the mouth with water, water-based gels and mouth rinses.
  • Remove sticky tenacious secretions, crusty plugs on the palate and stringy saliva following cancer therapy treatment.
  • Or remove any retained food and debris from the mouth.
  • Aid oral desensitisation for patients with special requirement and learning disabilities.
  • Clean coated tongues.

Moutheze oral cleanser

What Healthcare Professionals Said About Moutheze

“Very useful for removing dry secretions on the tongue”

‘’Great product and a much needed addition to oral care. Fully meets criteria for intended use. For dysphagic patients this would be an excellent therapy tool’’

‘’Very well tolerated by patient. Moistened mouth well, movement of oral musculature and clarity of speech improved after use’’

tooth paste and nature

What Patients Said About Moutheze

‘’Really stimulates the mouth, I had more saliva. You think it was hard or hurt, looking at it, but when it is in the mouth it feels really good’’

‘’Gel held on MouthEze, allowed good access to all areas of the oral cavity’’

love heart oral care

Again, we led the way at the forefront of the industry by becoming the first specialist care home supplier to stock this new innovative product and help our customers solve their oral care challenge and also be at the forefront of emerging innovations in safe oral care and helping them achieve compliancy with CQC.

As we learned more about oral care and the tools our customers needed, we added further safe alternatives:

tepe toothbrush

Tepe Toothbrush

A small soft-headed toothbrush can also be recommended and in nil by mouth cases an aspirating toothbrush can be used if a care home has these facilities (please ask for more details)

toothette swabs

Toothette Disposal Swabs

These are untreated single use ultra-soft swab with distinct ridges which help lift debris and secretions and clean between teeth while stimulating fragile oral tissue.

Although they are still a foam swab, the manufacturers state that’ the sponge will not come off as they are on a plastic stick rather than compressed cardboard as the old pink sponges were’

The Toothette has been subject to a Quality Improvement Project in a London teaching hospital aimed to assess their safety and suitability versus traditional pink foam mouth swabs

The survey was based on a 4-week trial and 28 staff surveys collected with the following conclusion:

‘After implementing assessing a new oral swab, the care staff concluded that these new evidence based swabs were able to provide enhanced oral cleaning in a safe and secure manner to patients and that they were better and safer for practice compared to previously used pink foam swabs.’

NB Sponge swabs should not be soaked as that can loosen the glue and pose a risk of choking if the head become detached

Oralieve Dry Mouth Gel

Feedback has been received that it still causes a challenge when foam swabs were being used to moisten the mouth, as some of the alternatives do not hold liquid so well.

Our dry mouth gel can provide immediate relief of dry mouth and provides hours of relief and comfort in one application.

It can be easily applied with a clean finger to gums, tongue and palate, or by using the patented MouthEze soft headed applicator. Oralieve Mouth Gel is a Class1 Medical Device.

oralieve dry mouth relief

Latest Product Available

360 toothbrush

New 360° Adult Toothbrush

The soft bristles make this product a suitable replacement to the mouth sponges. They can be used to remove biofilm from the teeth and soft tissues of the oral cavity such as the tongue, palate and cheeks. It can also be used to hydrate the mouth with water or hydrating gel. It is a fast growing popular alternative to the sponge swabs.


Click on the image to download the Oral Hygiene management Guide

Oral Hygiene Management Guide Long CTA

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Customer Testimonials

“We’ve built a strong working relationship with Hcsuk over many years, having used them to source, install and service our medical training equipment. We have always found the team very professional, helpful, and well-organised. We’d like to give a particular shout out to Phil, the technician / engineer who has been the consistent friendly face visiting our business to inspect and test our mobility hoists every 6 months. Thank you for all your support and advice.”

P. B. (Care Manager), Blue Bird Care Ltd

You are part of a great company, if we can help you grow by contracting you out to our sites its good for you, but it’s great for us because your service is fantastic, very efficient, everyone within Hcsuk is super helpful in answering queries and every time we’ve had an issue, Hcsuk has always been there to solve the problem almost immediately, which is fantastic.

Leicestershire County Council

Truly exceptional levels of customer service, the best I have experienced for many years. Very helpful staff made follow up calls to ask how the equipment was performing and supplied extra user instructions to supplement the manufacturers manual. I would not hesitate to order from this company again.

Savills Estate Agents

We would just like to pass on our thanks for all of your help with our orders and would be pleased if you would also pass on our thanks to the manufacturers for being so accommodating in meeting our requirements. We have found everyone very helpful.

Lincs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Since I set up the account for Hcsuk over 18 months ago I have found them to be an excellent advocate of our products. They have been willing to learn about the technical and servicing elements to our hoists and the sales staff have really taken on board and proactively promoted our range where possible. I feel that as a company Hcsuk have got the desire and right people in place for growing in this competitive industry. They seem to push themselves to go that little bit further and offer that little bit more to stand out from the rest. May our relationship continue going from strength to strength.

Joerns Healthcare

As a care home manager I have used Hcsuk for my supplies for the last 20 years in two homes. I have always found them to be helpful and reliable. Their products are of the highest standards, they are able to source anything. The delivery service is prompt and regular so I do not have to keep large amounts of stock. They supply extra services such as servicing and repairs which are done efficiently, and training in COSHH. The reps are pleasant and helpful bringing new products to my attention but are never ”pushy”. Aftercare is good, any problems soon sorted. I would recommend them highly and would not think of using anyone else.

Littleover Nursing Home

HPC have supplied Hcsuk (Health Care Services Ltd) for well over a decade now and we would consider them to be a high quality and professional business run in an organised and progressive manor. We do not rank our customers or have a preferred customer status but if we were to introduce such a scheme I can confirm that Hcsuk would easily make such a grade.

HPC Healthline

As a manufacturer we look for key values in a distributor some of these include honesty, reliability, commitment and reputation. Hcsuk carry all of these and many more. With a twenty plus year working relationship we now place Jo and the team at the top of our distributor list. I have no hesitation in recommending Hcsuk to any prospective manufacturer or customer and wish Jo and the team all the best for the future.

Cleenol Group Ltd

It is brilliant that we are able to ring Health Care Services and that you will go the extra mile to get us the stock we need as soon as possible.

Rykneld View Nursing Home

Just to say a huge thankyou to you and your fantastic team, and I mean that from the Heart. I have never before experienced such a person centred company.

Hampton Grange Nursing Home

What I like about working with Health Care Services is the relationship we have built up and the personal service. The homes report that you always deliver on time, the quality is consistently good and the prices competitive. Your team members are always willing to go that extra mile for us and if ever we have an issue there is always someone there to save the day.

Eastgate Care

Thanks to Jo for going over and above to get us our items in time for our special event at Buddleia House – it was very much appreciated. A massive thankyou for your continued assistance as a supplier to ourselves.

Buddleia House

We have always received excellent services from everyone at HCS at our 2 care homes, especially Lee, Jo and Phil. Always professional with a quick response time. Nothing ever seems too much trouble. Recently I had to use them personally for equipment to enable my mothers discharge from hospital. I had a response within the hour for prices and delivery came straight from the manufacturer to speed up delivery. Phil arrived at the same time to put the equipment together for us! I can’t thank them enough for putting our minds at ease and for the continued support from a personal and professional perspective. I’d recommend them to anyone requiring care equipment and its nice to support local businesses. Especially when they do such a good job!!

Orla House

I contacted HCSUK trying to find a hoist that could be operated unaided by the client. I had become very disheartened, no-one was really helpful until I spoke to Donna at HCSUK.

Donna was incredibly understanding, her professionalism raised my spirits again. Everything Donna said she would do she did, including arranging for me to speak to Andrew the salesman who like Donna was incredibly helpful, happy to bring two machines to demonstrate.

I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are good people.

Penelope C

I spoke to Lee Atterbury 2 weeks ago, when I was despairing about the prospect of finding any equipment to help my husband in the bathroom. I had tried all the popular brands, but none were right for his needs.

When I spoke to Lee he understood what I was saying and set about trying to find what we need. He was so patient and understanding and gave me the confidence to explore outside the box.

I spoke to Lee today and was able to tell him that we, hopefully, have found the solution. I am sorry that it was not a product you sell, though you may in the future, but will certainly look first to HCS for other products.

Thank you so much to Lee for first class customer service.

Christine G, Sheffield

VAT Relief Information

Conditions for VAT relief for disabled people

Some of the products which can be purchased from the Hcsuk website are available for an eligible person to purchase without paying VAT on them. HM Revenue and Customs sets out the conditions when equipment for disabled people might be free of VAT and how to claim exemption from paying VAT on these products.

Products a can only be exempt from VAT when all the following conditions are met:

  1. The customer is eligible to purchase supplies at the zero rate
  2. The goods are for the personal or domestic use of the customer
  3. The goods and services are eligible to be supplied at the zero rate

A more detailed explanation of each of these conditions is given below, but you should visit the HM Revenue and Customs Website to fully understand the conditions

The product must be being purchased for someone who is chronically ill or disabled.

A person is ‘chronically sick or disabled’ if he/she is a person:

It does not include a frail elderly person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, such as with a broken limb.

‘personal or domestic’ use means that the supply must be made available specifically for the use of an eligible individual.

You don’t have to physically buy the goods in person. If your parent, guardian or wife or husband buys the goods and services for you, then you won’t be charged VAT.

What counts as personal or domestic use?

Personal or domestic use means that the goods or services are supplied for your own private use, rather than for business purposes. Also, the goods or services must be just for your own use – not for use by anyone else, or chronically sick or disabled people in general. However, if you and your partner are both chronically sick or disabled and you buy goods or services for both of you to use, then you won’t have to pay VAT.

Products which are offered for sale on this website which qualify for VAT relief to be claimed for an eligible person.

The products which can be bought without paying VAT are:

Only the products on our site carrying the VAT exemption price (the smaller price marked ex VAT) are eligible to be purchased this way and you must tick the box on the basket page indicating that you wish to claim VAT exemption on the items in your basket that are eligible for VAT relief.

How to claim

On the my basket page of this website a link to the online declaration form is provided if the basket contains a product that qualifies for VAT relief. You must tick the box to state you wish to claim VAT relief on the eligible product and complete in full the reason by which you are ‘chronically sick or disabled’ and name and address of the claimant. If possible the person making the claim should complete this form, but a family member, carer or medical professional may complete the form on the claimants behalf. To submit the claim and receive the VAT relief, click the ‘Submit VAT Relief Claim’ button before proceeding to the checkout.

Please note that all orders submitted with a VAT relief claim form completed are checked before the order is processed.

It is necessary to complete a separate claim form each time a qualifying product is purchased from Hcsuk.


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