When we think of dental care, most of us imagine brushing, flossing, and visiting Dr. Lawrence at the regular six-month intervals. But excellent dental hygiene can be critical in all sorts of settings– even a hospital setting, where patients may be receiving care for problems that aren’t related to oral health!
Researchers observe two groups of patients
In a new study, researchers examined the outcomes of Intensive Care Unit patients divided into two groups: a “control” who received the standard oral health procedures provided by hospital staff, and an “enhanced” dental care group who received care by a dentist.
The group of patients receiving “enhanced” dental care experienced comprehensive oral health care while in the Intensive Care Unit: teeth cleaning and flossing, including removal of calculus, treatment of cavities, tongue scraping, and even tooth pulling when required. In short, there were no holds barred when it came to complete dental care.
In comparison, routine oral health procedures involved cleansing teeth and oral cavity with gauze and application of chlorhexadine (an antiseptic mouthwash) three times daily.
A significant outcome
What the scientists found was that of the 254 patients followed in the study, those who received comprehensive oral health care by a dentist were 56% less likely to contract a lower respiratory infection.
What does this mean?
The study shows that managing oral health can make a big difference in patient outcome– namely, by controlling infections they may receive while under hospital care. Of these, respiratory tract infections are one of the most prevalent, due to the use of ventilators for patients needing critical care, and the fact that almost all of these patients are lying flat, which inhibits the body’s natural cleansing of invading bacteria.
Researchers believe that because invading bacteria often originate from the oral cavity, controlling this factor through strict dental hygiene may be the key to lowering incidences of respiratory infection secondary to hospital stays.
Sometimes science hits home
By improving patient outcomes through oral hygiene and dental care, this study is one indicator that it may be beneficial to integrate more comprehensive dental care into the hospital system.
At one time or another, many of us may have the difficult experience of seeing a loved one in the hospital. But armed with the information that dental care can make a big difference in their health, we can be better advocates for our friends and loved ones.
We look forward to seeing you
McKinney Smiles is always interested in learning more ways that great dental health can improve our community’s health and wellbeing. Please share your new discoveries with us at your next appointment to your McKinney, TX dentist!