A new collaborative project collaboration will kick off mid-year to discover how the health outcome of patients in intensive care can be improved through improved oral hygiene.
The research collaboration will be delivered as part of a partnership between Metro North Oral Health Services, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and The School of Dentistry at the University of Queensland (UQ).
Dr Claudia Lopez Silva, who works at the Oral Health Centre as a Discipline Lead Special Needs Dentistry at the University of Queensland School of Dentistry and as a Dental Specialist at Metro North Oral Health Services – said the mouth was a key area for microorganisms to develop which could cause infections in other parts of the body.
“Bacteria found in dental plaque can increase the risk of respiratory tract infections especially in critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation,” she said.
“For patients in intensive care, it is important that mouth care is performed regularly, to get the balance right and prevent infections from developing.
“By improving oral hygiene in vulnerable patients in the ICU, it is expected that the rate of respiratory infections will be reduced and also the need for these patients to receive antibiotics.”
As part of the project, better oral health awareness and training will be delivered to registered nurses in the RBWH ICU.
“It is expected that postgraduate students in Special Needs Dentistry will provide support to registered nurses in the ICU to guide them through procedures and practical instructions to improve their knowledge and skills in oral hygiene care,” Dr Lopez said.
“This will be coupled with individualised oral hygiene care plans to improve patient outcomes and education programs on risk-based oral care that will persist through an e-learning course.”
The project will remain embedded as part of ICU services at completion. The collaboration will start in July 2022 with findings delivered in 2023.
It is anticipated that the integration of Special Needs Dentistry postgraduate research students from UQ School of Dentistry will create a unique model of care that will be able to be replicated across Queensland and Australia-wide.