Daily toothbrushing tied to lower rates of pneumonia among hospitalised patients

toothbrushing pneumonia hospital patients
Photo: birkay007

US researchers have found an inexpensive tool that may help reduce rates of pneumonia for hospitalised patients—and it comes with bristles on one end.

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, in Boston, Massachusetts—and published in JAMA Internal Medicine—examined whether daily toothbrushing among hospitalised patients is associated with lower rates of hospital-acquired pneumonia and other outcomes.

The team combined the results of 15 randomised clinical trials that included more than 2700 patients and found that hospital-acquired pneumonia rates were lower among patients who received daily toothbrushing compared to those who did not. The results were especially compelling among patients on mechanical ventilation.

“The signal that we see here towards lower mortality is striking—it suggests that regular toothbrushing in the hospital may save lives,” corresponding author Dr Michael Klompas said.

“It’s rare in the world of hospital preventative medicine to find something like this that is both effective and cheap. Instead of a new device or drug, our study indicates that something as simple as brushing teeth can make a big difference.”

Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs when bacteria in the mouth enter a patient’s airways and infect their lungs. Patients experiencing frailty or patients with a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible to developing hospital-acquired pneumonia during their hospital stay. 

However, adopting a daily toothbrushing regimen can decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth, potentially lowering the risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia from occurring.

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