Could Good Oral Health Prevent Pneumonia?

The link between oral health and pneumonia has been well-documented with scientific evidence. Could keeping your teeth and gums healthy and disease-free be the key to lowering the risk of this serious lung infection?

oral health and pneumonia

A recent study conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine says that yes, routine preventive oral health care could indeed be instrumental in preventing pneumonia.

Neglecting Oral Health Poses a Greater Pneumonia Risk

In 2013, a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) monitored the health care patterns of more than 26,000 participants over a two-year period. Researchers from the medical college at VCU analyzed this data for their study, looking for indicators of a relationship between dental care and pneumonia.

They found that 441 participants, or 1.68 percent, had suffered pneumonia, and the condition was much more prevalent in patients who did not regularly seek care from a dental care professional. People who visited the dentist or oral surgeon less often than once per year were 49 percent more likely to contract pneumonia.

Even scarier, the risk of contracting pneumonia jumped to 86 percent for anyone who had never visited a dentist or oral surgeon.

What Does Oral Health Care Have to Do with Preventing Pneumonia?

Every year, more than 1 million U.S. residents contract pneumonia, and 50,000 of them die as a result.

But what, you may be wondering, does oral health care have to do with preventing this serious condition?

As it turns out, many patients who contract lung infections suffer from a condition known as aspiration pneumonia. In these cases, it comes from bacteria that is accidentally aspirated or inhaled into the lungs.

Several types of bacteria — including streptococcus, staphylococcus and anaerobic bacteria — can cause aspiration pneumonia, and these are the types of bacteria that thrive in your mouth.

Regular dental visits and the treatment of gum disease drastically reduce the amount of harmful bacteria present in the mouth, thus reducing the chances of contracting this potentially deadly health condition.

More Reasons Not to Neglect Oral Health Care

If you aren’t having any problems with your teeth or gums, it may be tempting to postpone seeing the dentist or oral surgeon. But this is not a good idea, because you may suffer from other potentially serious health problems that only your dentist or oral surgeon can identify.

Cavities and gingivitis can be treated before they become significant issues, helping to prevent tooth loss and saving you from dealing with future discomfort.

During an oral health care examination, you’ll also be screened for oral cancer. Dentists and oral surgeons can detect early signs, significantly improving your chances of beating oral pathology and cancer before they spread. And systemic diseases like diabetes, immune disorders and heart disease can be diagnosed during a routine checkup.

Oral health examinations can save your life, so don’t wait to schedule your appointment. Contact Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah, with convenient locations in Tooele, South Jordan and Cottonwood Heights, to schedule your appointment.