Dental Care Reduces Respiratory InfectionA study published in the November issue of Infection Control and Hospital  Epidemiology, suggests that patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) who receive enhanced oral care from a dentist are at significantly less risk for developing a lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI), like ventilator-associated pneumonia, during their stay. “Bacteria causing healthcare-associated infections often start in the oral cavity,” said Fernando Bellissimo-Rodrigues, MD, lead author of the study. “This study suggests that having a dentist provide weekly care as part the ICU team may improve outcomes for vulnerable patients in this setting.”

Enhanced dental care included teeth brushing, tongue scraping, removal of calculus, atraumatic restorative treatment of caries, tooth extraction and topical application of chlorhexidine corresponding to each patients’ needs four to five times a week. Comparatively, regular treatment consisted of mechanical cleansing using gauze followed by topical application of chlorhexidine three times a day.

The researchers performed a clinical trial that analyzed data collected from 254 adult patients in ICU. Patients were randomized to receive this enhanced dental care provided by a dentist, or to receive routine oral hygiene performed by the ICU nurse staff.

Patients provided enhanced dental care were 56 percent less likely to develop a respiratory tract infection during their ICU stay compared to the control patient group! They concluded that enhanced dental treatment could be more effective in reducing oral bacteria and could help prevent the migration of certain bacteria into the lungs.