New research suggests regular dental cleanings may decrease the risk of pneumonia by reducing bacteria in the mouth.
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. Bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia include streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria. Routine dental visits may reduce the amount of bacteria that can be aspirated, said Michael Doll, MD.
“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,” said Dr Doll.