Preoperative oral care by a dentist may help reduce postoperative complications such as pneumonia and death in patients who undergo cancer surgery, according to researchers at the University of Tokyo, who noted that their findings could improve strategies for preventing these negative outcomes.
Postoperative pneumonia often is caused by aspiration of oral and pharyngeal secretions, the researchers said. Self-care such as brushing and flossing and even oral hygiene provided by doctors or nursing staff may not be as effective at removing the pathogens that may lead to pneumonia from the oral cavity as care performed by a dentist, the researchers explained.
The researchers analyzed the nationwide administrative claims database in Japan and identified patients who underwent resection of head and neck, esophageal, gastric, colorectal, lung, or liver cancer between May 2012 and December 2015.
Of 509,179 patients studied, 16% received preoperative oral care from a dentist. When a surgeon requested that a dentist provide preoperative oral care to a patient with cancer, the dentist checked the patient’s oral condition, provided a professional tooth cleaning, taught the patient self-cleaning methods for the teeth, and provided any needed treatment.
In the study, 15,724 patients (3.09%) developed postoperative pneumonia, and 1,734 (0.34%) died within 30 days of surgery. After adjustments, preoperative oral care by a dentist was linked with a decrease in postoperative pneumonia (3.28% versus 3.76%) and death within 30 days (0.30% versus 0.42%).
The study, “Preoperative Oral Care and Effect on Postoperative Complications After Major Cancer Surgery,” was published by BJS.