Oral Hygiene Linked to Pneumonia in Hospital Patients

It goes without saying that oral hygiene is important. There have been dozens of studies linking poor oral hygiene with many other serious conditions, such as heart disease. A recent study in Sacramento has found another illness to add to the list: Pneumonia.

The study in question focused on patients that are not on ventilators, since for a long time now, the spotlight has always been on the more pneumonia-prone ventilated patients. The idea was sparked after a nurse noticed that non-ventilated patients were seeing a disturbing tendency towards contracting pneumonia.

The year-long study showed a strong correlation between patients who do not brush and floss regularly, and their propensity to get pneumonia. The reasoning they found was that the mouths of those who did not brush and/or floss had much more bacteria, and the simple act of breathing was pulling the bacteria into the patients’ lungs.

As many patients in hospitals have weakened or otherwise compromised immune systems to begin with, this can be a recipe for disaster.

Once they noticed this trend, several hospitals began a stringent oral care program, and the results were astonishing: They saw a 36% decrease in number of new pneumonia cases.

Regulations in the US only require hospitals to monitor for pneumonia in ventilated patients, but hopefully since this study has been released, hospitals will start to take the condition more seriously among patients, and will take simple oral hygiene measures in order to drastically cut its prevalence.