Good oral hygiene can reduce bad bacteria in the mouth and thus decrease the risk of developing pneumonia, a research has found. Pneumonia is an infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs, which may fill with fluid.
The infection is more common among older people and those with conditions such as AIDS or lung disease. The study found that people who never get dental checkups had an 86 per cent greater risk of pneumonia than those who visit the dentist twice a year.
“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health,” said lead author Michelle Doll, Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.
“We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present,” Doll added.
The human body contains 10 times as many microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) as human cells on or in the body, from the skin to the gastrointestinal 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, Doll said. “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,” Doll said.