Regular Dental Care Can Reduce Risk of Pneumonia

Dental Visits Cut Risk of Pneumonia

Dr. Michelle Doll and colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond analyzed information on 26,687 individuals from the Medical Expenditure Panel – a set of surveys of families and individuals across the United States – to look for factors that could reduce the risk of pneumonia. The researchers were able to determine the number of dental visits in a year and compared this information with medical diagnosis codes for bacterial pneumonia. 441 individuals of the group had an episode of pneumonia in the same year as information was available about dental visits.
Dental care visit that may reduce the risk of pneumonia

Dental care visit

Results: Of those who developed pneumonia, 34% reported having at least two dental checkups a year compared with 46% of those who did not have regular dental visits. For those who never had a dental visit in the year, the risk of pneumonia was 86% higher than those who had two visits to the dentist in the same year. Additional analysis showed that white race, older age, other medical problems, and lower health status were statistically associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. These findings were recently presented at the Annual Infectious Disease (ID) Week meeting in New Orleans.
Arrows show pneumonia in the fight lung

Arrows show pneumonia in the right lung

My Comments: Bacterial pneumonia is a serious illness, and may be life threatening in those who have COPD. Anything that can be done to reduce the risk of pneumonia is important. There is a direct link or conduit between the mouth and the lungs. Most episodes of bacterial pneumonia are due to bacteria in the mouth “slipping down” into the lungs. This is called aspiration. This process typically happens during sleep. As long as the number of bacteria that reach the lungs is small and as long as the immune system (fights infections) of the person is good, pneumonia does not usually occur. Make sure to practice good dental hygiene and have regular checkups with your dentist.  

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.