Dentists can help reduce hospital-acquired pneumonia, ADA says

Clinical Leadership & Infection Control

Multiple dental organizations are working with researchers and medical professionals to reduce cases of nonventilator-associated hospital-acquired pneumonia, an effort initiated by the Dental Quality Alliance, according to the American Dental Association. 

Brushing at least twice a day during a hospital stay can reduce the risk of pneumonia, according to Dian Baker, RN, PhD, professor and researcher at Sacramento-based California State University. She added that a patient's normal oral microbiome is significantly disrupted by medical interventions during hospital stays.

Dentists should work with physicians to prevent hospital-acquired pneumonia with consistent oral care, said Ms. Baker. Dentists can also communicate the importance of maintaining oral health with patients who are going to be admitted to the hospital or a long-term care facility.

"Doctors, nurses and infection control specialists in hospitals haven't completely understood the association between the mouth and the propensity to develop infections, especially in the lungs," said Nafys Samandari, DDS, member of the Arizona Dental Association's board of trustees. "Therefore, dentists and dental teams can play essential roles by educating our medical colleagues and collaborating on a plan to address hospital-acquired pneumonia...These infections lead to longer lengths of stays, additional healthcare costs and could result in patient deaths."

Following the lead of the Dental Quality Alliance, efforts to implement related initiatives have spread to Arizona, California and Michigan, according to Allen Moffitt, DDS, chair of the DQA.

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