Nearly one million Americans are infected with pneumonia each year, with 50,000 dying of the disease. It is more common among the elderly and those with conditions such as lung disease. But people who never get dental checkups have an 86% greater risk of pneumonia than those who visit the dentist twice a year, based on research from Virginia Commonwealth University.
“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good health,” said Michelle Doll, MD, lead author and assistant professor of internal medicine at the university’s division of infectious disease. “We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”
The researchers analyzed data on 26,246 people from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Of those subjects, 441 people or 1.68% had bacterial pneumonia, which occurs in some cases when bacteria such as streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria are accidentally inhaled or aspirated into the lungs. Routine visits may reduce the numbers of bacteria than can be aspirated, said Doll.
“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 Doll.
The researchers presented their results at IDWeek 2016, held October 26 through October 30 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.