Winter is quickly approaching, and with it comes the season of sickness. During the winter months, many people suffer from common ailments such as the common cold, flu, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. Did you know that there are close connections between some of these illnesses and your oral health and hygiene? For example, a recent study out of the Nihon University School of Dentistry in Japan discovered that poor oral health and habits are a major risk factor for pneumonia, especially among the elderly.
Pneumonia is a common lung infection that is caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungi and has symptoms that can vary from mild to severe. The most common symptoms of pneumonia include cough, fever, shaking chills, and shortness of breath. Treatment for pneumonia varies widely, based on several factors, like cause of illness, severity of symptoms, age, and overall health. Most patients can be treated at home with a strict regimen of rest, fluids, and fever-reducing medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. But in severe cases, hospitalization can occur so that you may receive additional fluids, antibiotics, and oxygen therapy. Those in good health typically recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks, but for those who are older, very young, or in poor health, the illness can be life-threatening. Pneumonia is typically preventable by getting an annual flu shot (the flu can lead to pneumonia), frequently washing your hands, and for high risk patients, getting a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia. And thanks to modern-day research, such as that mentioned above, we are learning everyday of other ways to help maintain your good health.
Researchers studied 524 randomly selected seniors, 228 males and 296 females with an average age of 87.8 years old, in hopes of associating oral health with the risk of contracting pneumonia. They were examined for oral health status and oral hygiene behaviors as well as medical assessments, with annual follow-ups over the course of three years. During that time, 48 events associated with pneumonia took place, 20 deaths and 28 acute hospitalizations. Among the participants were 453 denture wearers, 186 of whom wore their dentures during sleep. The study found that the 40.8% who wore their dentures during sleep were at a significantly higher risk for pneumonia than those who removed them at night, according to a recent Medical News Today article. In addition to the increased chance of pneumonia, those who wore dentures while sleeping were more likely to have denture and tongue plaque, gum inflammation, positive culture for Candida albicans, and higher levels of circulating interleukin-6. If you’re willing to get a flu shot and try to wash your hands regularly to avoid getting sick, add “removing your dentures before bed” to your list of preventative measures. Not only will you be decreasing your chances of contracting pneumonia, you’ll also be improving your overall oral health.