Today we are targeting the surgical patient population for a simple readmissions intervention: tooth brushing.

Improving oral hygiene prior to surgery is an emerging recommendation to reduce the risk of post-operative infections. Problems with teeth or gums can be a major source of bacteria that can enter the bloodstream or lungs causing pneumonia or sepsis, both of which are leading diagnoses related to readmissions.

There is evidence that patients undergoing cardiovascular surgery and major cancer surgery benefit from preoperative oral care. However, a clean mouth prior to surgery is good for all patients. Do your patients know they can brush their teeth the morning of surgery, even though they may be NPO?

Postoperatively, good oral hygiene continues to protect patients from pneumonia, yet studies show that 70% of hospitalized patients do not receive adequate oral hygiene. For more information about improving oral care for patients, read this guide about the problem and a solution utilizing a nurse-led hospital-acquired pneumonia program that proved that oral care is much more than a comfort measure.

Just for fun:  Want a tool to engage pre-operative patients in upping their brushing game?  Brush DJ is a fun app that uses music and buzzes every 30 seconds to change sides and a round of applause when you finish after 2 minutes of brushing.

If your organization is ready to get serious about reducing readmissions, review the Cynosure Readmissions Discovery Tool to see where there are opportunities for improvement beyond oral health in your organization.