Educating staff about the importance of oral health can help prevent complications and hospital admissions for patients with dysphagia.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia is a disorder that impairs a person’s ability to swallow and can lead to serious consequences, including aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, choking, and death. Speech language pathologists (SLPs) have extensive knowledge regarding dysphagia and play a central role in the assessment and treatment of the disorder. Despite the high occurrence of aspiration pneumonia in patients with dysphagia, it is often considered to be a potentially preventable complication. Effective oral care has been widely accepted as a crucial component in the reduction of aspiration pneumonia, but still, it is often overlooked.

SLPs working in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) routinely work with staff on improving patient outcomes and managing dysphagia. Consider the following true patient story that demonstrates the relationship between poor oral care and aspiration pneumonia.

Being proactive instead of reactive with good infection prevention can be the difference between a patient needing a hospital readmission or not. Decreasing harmful bacteria with an effective oral care program is not only simple to understand and implement, but it could also ultimately save patients from a costly hospital readmission and having to endure aspiration pneumonia.