Regular Visits to Dentist and Good Oral Hygiene May Help Prevent Pneumonia, Study Finds

Regular Visits to Dentist and Good Oral Hygiene May Help Prevent Pneumonia, Study Finds

A new research study has shown that good oral hygiene can reduce bacteria known to cause pneumonia. Going to the dentist every six months could be more helpful to keep teeth and gums healthy and decrease the risk of pneumonia than previously thought.

The findings were recently presented at IDWeek 2016, reporting on a study authored by Michelle Doll, MD; Kristen Kelly, MSc; Scott Ratliff, MS; and Norman Carroll, PharmD.

The purpose of IDWeek is to feature the latest scientific and bench-to-bedside approaches in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and epidemiology of infectious diseases. IDWeek 2016 took place in New Orleans Oct. 26-30.

The body is known to contain 10 times as many microbes (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) as human cells, from the skin to the gastrointestinal system, including the mouth. Some microbes are better than others, but even the bad ones only lead to diseases under certain circumstances. In some cases, bacteria can be accidentally inhaled or aspirated into the lungs, as is the case with pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia is most commonly caused by streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria.

Based on an analysis of 26,246 inquiries on healthcare use – including dental care, costs, and patient satisfaction – from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the team observed that 441 of 26,246 people (1.68 percent) developed some sort of bacterial pneumonia, and that those who never got dental checkups had an 86 percent increased risk of pneumonia when compared to people who visit the dentist every six months.

“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health,” Doll, lead author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Division of Infectious Disease, said in a press release.

“We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present. Our study provides further evidence that oral health is linked to overall health, and suggests that it’s important to incorporate dental care into routine preventive healthcare,” Doll said.

IDWeek is the joint annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS).

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