A Virginia VA hospital found it could dramatically reduce its cases of pneumonia by getting patients to brush their teeth

Along with telehealth software and remote patient monitoring software, progress in preventive measures are also being witnessed in healthcare. A Virginia VA hospital has found something surprising regarding the cure for pneumonia. It was found that they can reduce the case of pneumonia by getting patients to brush their teeth.

In late 2016, nurses at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center Community Living Centers began ensuring that patients would brush their teeth twice a day. Since then the non-ventilator cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia decreased by 90%.

Shannon Munro, Ph.D., a nurse researcher at the hospital said that tooth brushing was saving lives. The program is called Project HAPPEN (Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia Prevention by Engaging Nurses); their efforts have been expanded to 8 VA hospitals and till date have prevented 117 cases of pneumonia. Thus, saving an estimated 21 lives leading to a cost reduction of $4.69 million. 

Munro mentioned that the development of Project HAPPEN has been a collaborative effort between nurses, infection control experts, physicians, and dental professionals. With an excessive plaque on a patient’s teeth, it acts like “sticky sandpaper,” which irritates the mouth and produces bacteria that can easily travel down the throat into the lungs causing pneumonia infection.