Ames reviewed and summarized studies on the safety and effectiveness of tooth brushing in critically ill patients who were receiving mechanical ventilation. The studies indicated the following:

  • Every intensive care unit should have an oral care procedure that outlines frequent oral assessments, suctioning, and moisture to the lips and oral mucosa to prevent breakdown of these tissues.

  • When a patient is admitted to the intensive care unit, an oral history should be completed. This should note the presence of caries and poor oral health because gingivitis and periodontitis increase bacteremia risk.

  • The effect of tooth brushing in reducing ventilator-associated pneumonia cannot be determined at this time because study results are conflicting. Additional information is needed to determine the importance of tooth brushing in critically ill intubated patients.

—Rochelle Armola,rn, msn, ccrn

See Article, pp 242–250

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