According to official estimates, about a million Americans each year experience the infectious condition known as pneumonia. Roughly 50,000 of those patients end up dying from the illness. Of course, most people know that many of those patients are elderly, suffering from lung ailments, or otherwise in poor health. Now, new research suggests that there may be a dental health component to the pneumonia phenomenon. In fact, missing your regular dentist appointments could leave you more susceptible to the bacteria that can help cause pneumonia.
The study in question involved a careful analysis of a health database that included data from more than 26,000 patients. The research team examined information that was gathered in a 2013 panel survey, in which patients answered questions concerning their use of health services, cost of care, and satisfaction. During their analysis, the team looked for evidence of bacterial infection and discovered that 441 of the more than 26,000 patients had experienced bacterial pneumonia – 1.68% of all patients.
When they examined the health history of those patients, the researchers discovered that a significant number of those pneumonia patients had never had the regular dental checkups needed for sound oral health. As they examined that phenomenon, the team concluded that those patients that avoided dental visits experienced an 86 percent greater risk for developing pneumonia than patients who adhered to the recommended twice-annual checkups.
Why Checkups Matter
At-home dental maintenance is an important part of any oral health regimen, but it is insufficient to provide the protection that patients need against bacterial infections, cavities, and gum disease. The human body contains a vast array of bacteria, viruses, and fungal organisms. Some of them are beneficial and others are harmless. Still others can pose a risk to human health, but only when certain circumstances are present. Where pneumonia is concerned, however, there is typically an inhalation of foreign bacteria into the lungs that leads to the infection. Unfortunately, many of the bacteria that are known to cause pneumonia are often present in patients’ mouths.
Regular dental visits are necessary to reduce the presence of bad bacteria in the mouth and prevent the types of infection that can lead to medical complications like pneumonia. As Michelle Doll – the lead author of this study – noted in her comments about the research findings, “We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”
Obviously, pneumonia is not a condition that is common for most ordinary Americans, but it is prevalent enough that precautions are warranted. At Ebenezer Dental, we focus on helping all our patients maintain oral health regimens that control bacterial levels in the mouth. Regular dental checkups are a critical part of that effort, and something that all patients should adhere to as part of their oral care routines. Contact us today to find out how the best dentist in Midtown Manhattan can help you better manage your oral health and reduce the risk of bacterial infections like pneumonia.