A number of previous studies have highlighted the risk of poor oral health as a potential risk factor for aspirational pneumonia in frail older people. The aim of this review was to review the literature on oral health care interventions in frail older people and the effect on the incidence of aspiration pneumonia.
The authors searched PubMed, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, EMBASE and CINHAL databases for eligible intervention studies. Publications that considered hospitalized or institutionalized older people, who were not dependent on mechanical ventilation were eligible. Study quality was assessed independently by two authors
Five publications were included. Two studies showed that improvement of oral health care diminished the risk of developing aspiration pneumonia and the risk of dying from aspiration pneumonia directly. The three studies remaining showed that adequate oral health care decreased the amount of potential respiratory pathogens and suggested a reduction in the risk of aspiration pneumonia by improving the swallowing reflex and cough reflex sensitivity.
The authors concluded
According to the results of the current systematic literature review oral health care, consisting of tooth brushing after each meal, cleaning dentures once a day, and professional oral health care once a week, seems the best intervention to reduce the incidence of aspiration pneumonia.
van der Maarel-Wierink, C. D., Vanobbergen, J. N., Bronkhorst, E. M., Schols, J. M. and de Baat, C. (2012), Oral health care and aspiration pneumonia in frail older people: a systematic literature review. Gerodontology. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-2358.2012.00637.x
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