The Role of the Dental Hygienist in Prevention of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

Collins, Tara, Tiffany Rowell, and Rebecca Zagacki

Purpose

The purpose of our table clinic, through a review of literature, is to compare development of ventilator-associated pneumonia in patients receiving preventative oral hygiene care with patients not receiving preventative oral hygiene care.  Evidence has shown that patients on ventilators receiving routine preventative oral hygiene care are less likely than those without care to develop ventilator-associated pneumonia. The dental hygienist might play a role in educating hospital staff regarding appropriate interventions.

Summary

Hospitalized patients on mechanical ventilation are susceptible to developing ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).  Placement of the endotracheal tube for ventilation can lead to colonization of oral bacteria in the lower lung, leading to VAP.  A review of the literature reveals evidence of effective pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic methods in VAP prevention.  These methods include use of chlorhexidine gluconate, subglottic suctioning, toothbrushing, and patient positioning.  Prevention of VAP is significantly reduces hospital costs and length of patients’ hospital stays. 

Conclusion

The risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia is decreased upon implementation of oral hygiene care practices in hospitals.  Further research is needed to determine effectiveness of dental hygienists as members of a team for VAP prevention to educate hospital staff, to advise of assessment tools and in-service programs, and to implement oral care protocols.