Effects of three approaches to standardized oral hygiene to reduce bacterial colonization and ventilator associated pneumonia in mechanically ventilated patients: a randomised control trial

Int J Nurs Stud. 2011 Jun;48(6):681-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.11.004. Epub 2010 Dec 24.


Background: Ventilator associated pneumonia remains an important concern in the intensive care unit (ICU). An increasing body of evidence shows that mortality and morbidity can be reduced by implementing a range of preventive strategies, including optimizing oral hygiene.

Aim: The aim of this feasibility study was to test two oral hygiene strategies on the effects of microbial colonization of dental plaque with respiratory pathogens (primary outcome) and incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia (secondary outcome).

Methods: A single blind randomised comparative study was conducted in a 20-bed adult intensive care unit in a university hospital. Patients with an expected duration of mechanical ventilation more than 48 h were eligible. Patients were randomised to one of three study regimens (Group A control, second hourly oral rinse with sterile water, Group B sodium bicarbonate mouth wash second hourly, and Group C twice daily irrigations with chlorhexidine 0.2% aqueous oral rinse and second hourly irrigations with sterile water). All study options included cleaning with a toothbrush and non foaming toothpaste.

Results: Data from a total of 109 patients were analyzed. Group A 43, Group B 33 and Group C 33 (mean age: 58 ± 17 years, simplified acute physiology score II: 44 ± 14 points). On admission no significant differences were found between groups for all clinical data. While Group B showed a greater trend to reduction in bacterial colonization no significant differences could be demonstrated at Day 4 of admission (p=0.302). The incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia was evenly spread between Groups B and C (5%) while Group A was only 1%.

Conclusions: While a number of studies have advocated the use of various mouth rinses in reducing colonization of dental plaque a standardized oral hygiene protocol which includes the use of mechanical cleaning with a toothbrush may be a factor in the reduction of colonization of dental plaque with respiratory pathogens. This feasibility study provides data to inform future adequately powered studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Oral Hygiene*
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / microbiology
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / prevention & control*
  • Respiration, Artificial*