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Chest. 2004 Oct;126(4):1066-70.

Daily oral care and cough reflex sensitivity in elderly nursing home patients.

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Department of Geriatric and Respiratory Medicine, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Seiryo-machi 1-1, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8574, Japan.



Intensive oral care can reduce the incidence of pneumonia in elderly nursing home patients, but the mechanism is unknown.


To explore the effects of intensive oral care on impaired cough reflex sensitivity, which is a known risk factor of aspiration pneumonia.


Cough reflex sensitivity to citric acid was measured in elderly nursing home patients, who were randomly assigned to the intervention group (n = 30) and the control group (n = 29). The patients in the intervention group had their teeth and gingiva cleaned by caregivers after every meal for 1 month. The patients in the control group performed their own oral care during the same period. Serum substance P (SP) concentration, cognitive function, and activities of daily living (ADL) were also assessed.


In the intervention group, cough reflex sensitivity at 30 days showed significantly higher sensitivity than baseline (p < 0.01). At 30 days, the cough reflex sensitivities in the intervention group were significantly higher than that of the control group (p < 0.05). Compared with the control group, the odds ratio of improvement of cough reflex sensitivity was 5.3 (95% confidence interval, 1.7 to 16.0; p < 0.005) for the intervention group. One month of intensive oral care did not have a significant effect on serum SP concentration, cognitive function, and ADL.


Intensive oral care may reduce the incidence of pneumonia by improving cough reflex sensitivity in elderly nursing home patients.

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