brushing teeth

New Guidelines Emerge from Study

As a result of a research study, brushing teeth led to a major change in ICU guidelines for patients. Previously, ICU guidelines focused on a microbial mouthwash rinse for patients.

Details of the study regarding brushing teeth

The University of Toronto and its partner hospitals conducted a study that was very revealing. As a result of their research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidelines for care in all US hospitals.

For patients in ICU, pneumonia is a serious risk. Circumstances can change the microbiome in their mouths. This includes:

  • Medications causing dry mouth
  • Restrictions on eating and drinking
  • Lack of oral care
  • Tubes for ventilating that introduce bacteria into the lungs, which leads to pneumonia

How pneumonia occurs

Bacterial overgrowth in the mouth can aspirate from the mouth into the lungs. This often happens when patients lie on their backs. For years, guidelines suggested using an antimicrobial oral rinse to prevent pneumonia. However, over a period of eight years, reviews showed excess mortalities. In fact, it appeared as though the rinse might be contributing to deaths. At the very least, it wasn’t preventing deaths.

Instead of the rinse, the study introduced an oral health approach. It included brushing teeth and regularly moisturizing the lips and mouths of patients. Researchers substituted this approach for the rinse. It did a better job of promoting oral health and preventing pneumonia.

Medical practitioners and dentists have long known about the connection between oral health and overall health.

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