In patients diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the primary pathological cause of death, as determined by autopsy, is pneumonia. Research associates poor oral health with an increased incidence of pneumonia. The incidence is further elevated in mechanically ventilated, disabled and high-risk individuals. A proactive approach in oral health care could mitigate the risk of pneumonia related deaths in patients with ALS. This study evaluated whether the dental needs of ALS patients were being met. Over a three-month period 121 ALS patients were surveyed regarding their oral health status. Both written and online survey formats were employed. ALS Association Multidisciplinary Clinics and Certified Centers assisted in survey promotion and distribution. Research results were analyzed utilizing bivariate Pearson correlation coefficients to determine relationships among study variables. Results showed patients difficulty in obtaining dental health care increased by 38.7% when the responsibility of their oral health care transitioned from patient to caregiver. Also increasing the difficulty in obtaining dental health care was the length of time elapsed since patient diagnosis. An overwhelming 85% of patients responded that they had not received dental health care information at their multidisciplinary clinic appointments. Educating patients, their caregivers and ALS medical support personnel on the significance of oral health care and its association with pneumonia and pneumonia related death could have a positive impact on ALS patient life expectancy. This study supports the need for inclusion of a dental component into ALS patients' multidisciplinary clinic appointments.
Level of Degree
Sanchez Dils, Elaine
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Pneumonia, Oral Health Care, Dental Health Care, Mechanical Ventilation
Jones, Susan Wray. "Reducing Pneumonia Related Death in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients Through Improved Oral Health Care." (2011). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/dehy_etds/2