Today, #RouteVA takes us to the Salem VA Medical Center, where nurse researcher Shannon Munro, Ph.D., investigated a simple everyday task and its role in the prevention of pneumonia. That task? Teeth brushing. Without proper routine brushing, the biofilm that forms on teeth can harbor harmful bacteria which can migrate into patients’ lungs and cause infection. For 10 years, hospital records at Salem VA’s Community Living Center showed an average of four pneumonia cases per month. Munro discovered that, when nurses were trained to brush patients’ teeth twice a day, pneumonia cases dropped to zero.

Munro’s team has helped Salem VA and other hospitals in the U.S. and abroad launch initiatives to emphasize oral care. Salem VA nurses use the electronic medical record to document teeth brushing details for every patient, every day. “The shortest task, tooth brushing, was considered a low priority by many before we started this journey. Now we are seeing Veterans and staff paying more attention to this life-saving, two-minute per shift intervention. Veterans have been open to assistance with their oral hygiene and feel better with clean teeth,” said Munro. Her wish is that teeth-brushing regimens are adopted in care settings beyond the hospital, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to further reduce the risk of pneumonia among patients.

Stay tuned to see how other VA facilities are improving quality of life for Veterans every day. Follow our virtual tour on social media using #RouteVA. Want to join our mission to serve Veterans? VA offers dynamic careers that make the most of your talent and make a difference in countless lives. Search our available dentistry positions and apply today.

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