A study appearing in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology suggests that proper dental care can lead to less respiratory infections in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital. The study was conducted by Brazilian researchers who used an observer-blind randomized clinical trial to analyze data from 254 patients who stayed in a ICU for at least 48 hours. The patients were randomized to receive enhanced dental care by a dentist or to receive standard oral hygiene by a nurse.
Enhanced dental care included teeth brushing, tongue scraping, atraumatic restorative treatment, removal of calculus, extraction of teeth, and topical application of chlorhexidine 4 to 5 times a week. Regular dental care consisted of mechanical cleansing using gauze which was followed by chlorhexidine 3 times a week. The patients who received enchanced dental care were 56% less likely to develop a respiratory tract infection during their ICU stay when compared to the patient control group.
The researchers feel that enchanced dental treatment routinely performed in ICUs can help in reducing oral bacteria and help prevent respiratory tract infections like ventilator associated pneumonia. This study shows that bacteria causing infections can often start in the mouth or oral cavity.
Source: Wanessa T. Bellissimo-Rodrigues and et al. Effectiveness of a Dental Care Intervention in the Prevention of Lower Respiratory Tract Nosocomial Infections among Intensive Care Patients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. vol. 35, issue 11, pp. 1342, 2014.