World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is celebrated every year on 20 March. It is an international day to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth and to promote worldwide awareness of the issues around oral health and the importance of oral hygiene. Because 90% of the world’s population will suffer from oral diseases in their lifetime and many of them can be avoided with prevention, detection and treatment programs.
Oral health is a key factor in preventing aspiration pneumonia and is often overlooked. The oral environment is a complex ecosystem consisting of anaerobic bacteria, facultative aerobes, and spirochetes. Older adults often suffer from the consequences of poor oral health such as high rates of local infection, infectious endocarditis as well as aspiration pneumonia. These bacteria present in the saliva are often what cause the infection and regular oral care can be an easy solution to reducing the number of aspiration pneumonia cases.
In recent years, the need for consistent oral care to help prevent aspiration pneumonia has been recognised across the health disciplines. At a minimum, oral health care should consist of mechanical cleaning of the tongue and palatal mucus in order to remove the bacteria which may potentially be aspirated and cause pneumonia. Aspiration Pneumonia refers to the inhalation of food or fluid into the lungs causing infection and in some cases can be fatal. Aspiration can happen occasionally by accident when food goes down the wrong way.
The risk of aspiration pneumonia is increased when individuals suffer from difficulty swallowing, also known as Dysphagia. This is because patients with Dysphagia do not always successfully direct food into the stomach when swallowing and instead food, drinks and saliva end up in the individual’s lungs. Dysphagia is most common in elderly patients. Approximately 15% of older adults are affected by Dysphagia, with an estimated 70% of referrals made to ear nose and throat specialists for Dysphagia being above 60 years of age.
Regardless of the individual’s clinical condition, as soon as proper oral care is given, the mouth immediately becomes moist and healthy in colour as soon this health and care is seen throughout the entire body. Often the individuals at risk are unable to maintain oral hygiene routines independently and require assistance from others such as care staff at long-term living facilities. It is important for these individuals as well as friends and family to be aware of the risks and importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.
WOHD 2016 aims to get everyone to recognise the impact their oral health has on overall physical health and wellbeing to help inspire this change.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.