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Dental cleanings do more than just keep teeth and gums healthy, they can even prevent deadly diseases.
New research suggests that there is a link between pneumonia and visits to the dental office.
“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health,” says Michelle Doll, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. “We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”
Pneumonia is a serious problem in the United States. Each year almost one million Americans contract the illness and 50,000 are killed by it. Most of the people affected by pneumonia are elderly, or suffer from autoimmune or lung diseases, but the illness can affect anyone. Even the rich and famous aren't safe from it.
Researchers looked at the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and found that 441 of 26,246 people in the database, 1.68 percent, had bacterial pneumonia, 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 problem is due to the high concentration of bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria can be inhaled or aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia. Common bacterial culprits are treptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria. Routine dental visits may reduce the amount of bacteria that can be aspirated, says Dr. 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,” says Dr. Doll.
This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at the link between dental hygiene and deadly illnesses. Dental care goes beyond the mouth-an unhealthy mouth means an unhealthy body!