This post from the dentist in Waco TX focuses on an article that appeared on ScienceDaily.com. The article describes a study of Brazilian ICU patients that compared infection rates of those who received enhanced oral care instead of routine oral care. The patients who received the more intense dental care were 56 percent less likely to develop a respiratory infection during their stay.
“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.”1
“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.”
If a member of your family has serious health concerns, you may want to talk to their doctor about the oral health implications of their condition. In unfortunate cases where one of my patients experiences severe health issues, I am happy to work with their medical team to ensure that their dental health is not compromised. Even some managable chronic conditions can require more frequent exams and cleanings.
Though this study pertains to ICU patients, it is also a reminder to all of us. Receiving consistent quality dental care and practicing proper daily oral hygiene is important for everyone. Some patients have an inaccurate view of oral health – they seem to have the notion that it exists autonomously. It is actually interdependent with general physical health.
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