Routine dental visits may reduce the risk of pneumonia, says research

Routine dental visits may reduce the risk of pneumonia

In a new study, researchers find that twice-yearly trip to the dentist could do more than keep teeth healthy. It may decrease the risk of pneumonia by reducing bacteria in the mouth.

The finding was presented at IDWeek 2016™. Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University led the study.

Nearly one million Americans become ill with the infection every year and 50,000 die. While it is more common among older people and those with conditions such as AIDS or lung disease, anyone can get pneumonia.

“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health,” said Michelle Doll, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. “We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”

Researchers analyzed data obtained from the 2013 Medical Expediture Panel Survey, which asks about healthcare utilization (including dental care), costs and patient satisfaction.

They found 441 of 26,246 people in the database had bacterial pneumonia (1.68 percent) and that those who never had dental checkups had an 86 percent increased risk of pneumonia compared to those who had twice-yearly appointments.

The body contains 10 times as many microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) as human cells on or in the body, from the skin to the gastrontestinal system (including the mouth).

Some microbes are good and some are bad, but even bad microbes only cause disease under certain circumstances.

In some cases, bacteria can be accidentally inhaled or aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia. Routine dental visits may reduce the amount of bacteria that can be aspirated.

The study provides further evidence that oral health is linked to overall health. It’s important to incorporate dental care into routine preventive healthcare.

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News Source: Infectious Diseases Society of America.
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