Hospitals—we go there to get better; to recover from trauma and illness. Yet new research suggests that being hospitalized may not mean better health for your mouth.
Research presented in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that oral health declines even after a short period of hospitalization. The study examined the plaque index and gingival index of 162 patients who had been hospitalized over a period of three, seven, and 14 days. Both gingival index and plaque index increased significantly the longer patients were hospitalized.
The Centers for Disease Control report that the top three reasons for hospitalization are (in order) diseases of the circulatory system, diabetes, and diseases of the respiratory system. Each of these diseases has been shown to have some kind of oral component, yet when patients are hospitalized for these conditions, maintaining or improving oral health seems to be a very low priority.
In the oral-systemic health movement, dental and medical teams are encouraged to work together to keep oral health off the table as a risk factor for disease. This mindset should not stop at prevention and wellness, however. Equally important is that good oral health be maintained for those undergoing treatment for diseases that might be impacted by the bacterial burden of the mouth—which include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
At a time when healthcare costs are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, oral health does play a key role. Several studies in recent years have shown the enormous impact periodontal therapy can have on the costs, number of hospital visits, and complications involved with some of society’s most common health problems.
And with Baby Boomers now entering the time in their lives in which cardiovascular disease and diabetes become a mounting concern, it has never been more important that hospitals adopt oral health protocols in order to improve outcomes and reduce costs for their hospitalized patients.