Can Regular Dental Visits Prevent Pneumonia?

shutterstock_63583504If you have been lax about scheduling regular cleanings at your dentist’s office, the results of a new study may spur you into action. Doctors from Virginia Commonwealth University have found evidence that regular dental visits may decrease the risk of developing pneumonia by reducing harmful bacteria in the mouth. Dr. Ricardo Hernandez has the details of this study here.

Link between Oral Health and Pneumonia

The body naturally contains tiny microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. Many of these microbes aren’t harmful and some of them only cause disease under specific circumstances. For example, the bacteria that cause pneumonia must be inhaled into the lungs.

But according to Dr. Michelle Doll, a doctor and professor at the university, getting regular dental cleanings and check-ups may reduce the amount of these harmful bacteria, lowering the chances that they will be inhaled. No dental cleaning can completely rid the mouth of bacteria, but regular cleanings can limit the potentially harmful microbes.

Dr. Doll and her team looked at the public health records of more than 26,000 people in the United States, and concluded that those that never visited the dentist had almost twice the risk of developing pneumonia as those that did visit the dentist.

In the presentation to an annual meeting for infectious diseases, Dr. Doll noted that people that visit the dentist are likely to be diligent about other oral hygiene habits, such as regular brushing or flossing. And, they are likely to practice other healthy lifestyle habits, which also reduce their risk of developing pneumonia.

However, the possible link between dental visits and a reduced risk of pneumonia is important. Almost 1 million Americans are infected with pneumonia every year, and the disease claims 50,000 lives a year.

The link between oral health and general health extends beyond what was found in this body of research. For years, studies have shown that gum disease raises inflammation levels throughout the body, potentially increasing the risk of other serious health problems like heart disease and stroke. This underlines why it is so important to see a dentist regularly for checkups and exams.

Contact Our Pacific Beach Dentist

If you are interested in scheduling a dental visit with Dr. Hernandez, please call 858-272-6047 or email our office today and request an appointment.

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