Daily toothbrushing is associated with a reduced incidence of hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP), especially in patients on mechanical ventilation. This practice also is associated with lower intensive care unit (ICU) mortality, shorter ICU admissions, and shorter ventilator dependency. These are the findings of a meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Hospital policies must reassess the importance of oral hygiene even, or perhaps especially, in situations in which attention is focused elsewhere.
Oral Microbiota and Lungs
HAP largely results from the aspiration of microorganisms present in the oral cavity. In fact, the oral microbiota comprises an estimated 700 species of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. There is a known link between oral health and the development of pneumonia, and rigorous oral hygiene is part of the recommendations for preventing HAP. But the methods that should be used for ensuring good hygiene haven’t been determined. The use of chlorhexidine-based mouthwash is debated because there is no evidence that it prevents pneumonia and because some studies have suggested a link between chlorhexidine and higher mortality rates.
Toothbrushing is potentially more effective than antiseptic at reducing the oral microbiota because the mechanical action breaks up plaque and other biofilms. Yet, guidelines have focused very little on brushing as a measure for preventing hospital-acquired infections, meaning that every hospital has its own way of doing things.
What Data Show
Selina Ehrenzeller, MD, and Michael Klompas, MD, MPH, of the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, conducted a systematic literature analysis to identify randomized clinical studies in which daily toothbrushing was shown to affect the risk for HAP in adult hospital inpatients. Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were used for the meta-analysis. The effective population size was 2786 patients.
Daily toothbrushing was associated with a 33% lower risk for HAP (relative risk [RR], 0.67) and a 29% lower risk for ICU mortality (RR, 0.81). Reduction in pneumonia incidence was significant for patients receiving invasive mechanical ventilation (RR, 0.68) but not for patients who were not receiving invasive mechanical ventilation. Toothbrushing for patients in the ICU was associated with fewer days of mechanical ventilation (mean difference, −1.24 days) and a shorter ICU length of stay (mean difference, −1.78 days). Brushing twice a day versus more frequent intervals was associated with similar effect estimates. No differences were seen in duration of stay in various ICU subdepartments and in the use of antibiotics that were linked to daily toothbrushing.
“This study represents an exciting contribution to infection prevention and reinforces the notion that routine toothbrushing is an essential component of standard of care in ventilated patients,” wrote Rupak Datta, MD, PhD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and specialist in antimicrobial resistance in hospital settings, in a commentary on the study. According to Datta, there is still uncertainty regarding the importance of this practice in preventing nonventilator-HAP, as the investigators could only identify 2 studies with nonventilated patients that met inclusion criteria. Other studies will be needed to help standardize toothbrushing in hospital patients admitted in general. “As the literature on HAP evolves,” concluded Datta, “oral hygiene may take on an indispensable role, similar to hand washing, in preventing and controlling hospital-acquired infections.”
This article was translated from Univadis Italy, which is part of the Medscape professional network.
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Publish date : 2024-01-12 07:45:44
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