Dental Care Before Major Cancer Surgery May Reduce Risk Of Complications, Study Suggests

Reuters (8/28, Crist) reports a study published in the British Journal of Surgery found that patients who are undergoing “major cancer surgery might reduce their risk of complications by seeing a dentist beforehand.” The researchers discovered that patients “who visited a dentist were slightly less likely to have post-surgery pneumonia or die within 30 days of surgery.” The study “analyzed national data on patients who underwent surgery for cancers of the head, neck, esophagus, stomach, lung, liver or colon and rectum at 1,600 hospitals between 2012-2015.”

There have been other studies on a limited basis which have looked at post-surgical pneumonia that have identified the bacteria causing the pneumonia as the same bacteria found in the mouth. It is though that as the patient is “put under” utilizing a tube that runs past their mouth, that bacteria is carried from the mouth into the bronchi, thus inoculating the person with bacteria from their mouth.

Although there are other causes for pneumonia after major surgery, we recommend use of a chlorhexidine rinse for several days prior to surgery, having your teeth professionally cleaned, and making sure you have no dental infections of any sort, including gum disease, prior to surgery.