The concept of nurse administered oral hygiene is developed in a summary of selected nursing, medical and dental literature. The purpose of the review is to identify implications for nursing practice and research. The significance of oral hygiene to nursing is presented from physiologic, pathophysiologic, psychosocial, epidemiologic and economic perspectives. Tools, chemicals and frequency for nurse administered oral hygiene are discussed in relation to dental theory and relevant nursing research is critically reviewed. The therapeutic value of common commercial products, such as the foamstick and the lemon and glycerol swab, is not established in the literature. Methodological issues, implications for practice and suggestions for future research are presented.