The Association Between Accessing Dental Services and Nonventilator Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia in Medicaid Beneficiaries

Published 08/16/2022

A new article, co-authored by CareQuest Institute researchers, stresses the importance of dental hygiene and treatment of gum disease to prevent nonventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia (NVHAP). 

Researchers found that Medicaid beneficiaries who had received a preventive dental visit within one year prior to an inpatient hospitalization were 10% less likely to be diagnosed with nonventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia (NVHAP). Patients who received periodontal therapy (scaling and root planing) six months prior to hospitalization were 30% less likely to be diagnosed with NVHAP. 

Dental Hygiene and Treatment of Gum Disease Prior to Hospitalization May Help Prevent NVHAP 

“Ensuring that individuals enter the hospital with a ‘clean mouth’ through regular dental care before hospitalization has the potential to lower the risk of NVHAP,” write the authors. The authors also stressed that “both elderly and younger beneficiaries are at risk for NVHAP.” 

NVHAP is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections, occurring in approximately 1 in 100 hospitalized patients. The estimated cost per person to treat it is $28,000–$40,000 compared to approximately $500 for periodontal therapy. However, periodontal therapy is not covered by Medicaid in many states. Expanding Medicaid dental benefits to include periodontal therapy has the potential to reduce health care costs associated with NVHAP. 

Read the article in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology (open access). 

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