Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush: Hospital Acquired Pneumonia Treatment

Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush: Hospital Acquired Pneumonia Treatment

  • Those on ventilators have a high risk of developing pneumonia caused by antibiotic-resistant microbes
  • Vaccines are available for some causes of pneumonia, but not all (influenza vaccine) 
  • Hospital acquired pneumonia treatment should be updated to include oral care and mobility routines


      In the last few years, medical organizations have been speaking up about implementing processes and procedures for caring for NHVAP, non-ventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia – which affects about one in every 100 hospitalized patients.

      Pneumonia, a lung infection where one or both of the lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid, is the leading cause of death in the world for children under 5.

      While HAP (hospital-acquired pneumonia) and NHVAP don’t take millions of lives each year, affecting 300,000 is still a noticeable number. HAP is pneumonia that occurs over 48 hours after a patient is admitted to the hospital. What makes them more serious than common pneumonia people get from the outside community is that hospital-acquired pneumonia is more likely to be resistant to antibiotics. In addition, people in hospitals already have compromised immune systems – it’s more difficult for their bodies to fight off.

      Woman looking at bill

      What’s the cost of NVHAP?

      This isn’t a one-sided problem only impacting the health of patients and well-being of patients. Hospitals are also concerned about their mortality rates and with HAP affecting as many people as it does, mortality rates are higher than they could be.

      Contracting HAP means a longer hospital stay. With that comes more of everything. Medicine, nurses, ventilators, IVs. Not only are patients –  in a nation with a collective total debt of $195 million in 2019 – digging deeper holes in their wallets, hospitals are incurring high costs too for beds, staff, and resources used. 

      Can NVHAP and HAP be prevented?

      A study at 21 Kaiser Permanente hospitals reduced their rate of hospital-acquired pneumonia by roughly 70%.

      What did they do?

      Prioritized oral care and patient mobility.

      During a study where a medical facility implemented an oral care program, they reported there were five fewer cases of HAP than before the hospital acquired pneumonia treatment was updated. The hospital saved $200,000.

      Other hospitals and medical centers have run similar experiments – exact numbers vary –  and the results are unanimous. When patient oral care and mobility procedures are implemented as part of the care routine, there’s a reduction in cases of HAP.

      Why oral care?

      Dental plaque builds up bacteria from eating, drinking, and other contaminants that enter your saliva. Add into the mix that hospitals are a hotspot for bacteria and something’s bound to happen. Going days without brushing teeth increases patients' odds that the bacteria will aspirate into their lungs.

      Brushing one’s teeth is a simple, yet effective addition to hospital acquired pneumonia treatment.

      Nurse and patient with walker, walking in hospital hallway

      The future of hospital acquired pneumonia treatment

      The good news is hospital acquired pneumonia treatment is top-of-mind for many prominent non-profits and accreditation institutes in the medical field. Effective, reputable studies have been done to show the data is there. Oral care, increased patient mobility, and other hygiene-related care methods decrease the chances of patients contracting HAP. All of the procedures are cost-effective.

      What needs to happen next is policies and procedures need to be implemented. 

      Medical supplies need to be updated to include the proper oral and other hygienic products needed. 

      Nurses and hospital personnel need to be educated on best practices.

      If you’re a healthcare facility and need help buying the correct supplies for your practice, check out bttn’s database. We have toothbrushes, patient gowns, and other equipment to help you provide great care to your patients!

      Likewise, if you’re a patient receiving care in a hospital, advocate for an oral care routine. Or take matters into your own hands and bring your own toothbrush and toothpaste

      The information provided by bttn on this website is not medical advice, and all materials on this website, including text and images, are for educational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for advice from a professional healthcare provider.