Warding Off Pneumonia

If dentists were to reduce their exorbitant fees they would not only be more popular but within the means of a larger section of the population who would make a habit of visiting them on a more regular basis than they do now.

Avoiding the dentist could almost double the risk of getting pneumonia scientists have discovered. So it is in the interests of both parties to forge a better relationship for the overall health of the nation.

Apparently those who fail to have their teeth and gums checked were found to be 86% more likely to contract the disease. US experts believe this happens when bacteria in the mouth, which is more likely to thrive in people with poor dental health, is inhaled.

Dental check-ups twice a year could protect people by keeping bad bacteria such as streptococcus under control. The research follows evidence that brushing your teeth properly cuts the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Michelle Doll, associate professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University said: ‘There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia and dental visits are important in maintaining oral health.

‘We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.’

The latest research backs up a study by Yale University that puts bad dental hygiene among the top risks for pneumonia. The Virginia Commonwealth University researchers examined medical records for more than 26,000 people. They found 441 had bacterial pneumonia with those who had never had a dental check-up 86% more likely to have the disease than people who saw a dentist every six months.

Pneumonia, usually caused by a bacterial infection, is a swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs. It leaves patients with a hacking cough and fighting to breathe – and can even lead to respiratory failure and death.

Not brushing and flossing properly may lead to pneumonia when mouth bacteria is inhaled but also when food goes down the wrong way or during choking. This is more common among older people with swallowing problems, putting them at greater risk of pneumonia. Hospital patients are more likely to breath in bacteria. Meanwhile gum disease is believed to change the make-up of saliva which makes it less able to defend against disease.

The way in which oral bacteria can cause pneumonia is not fully understood, but the findings are important because 20,000 people in Britain get the disease every year with almost 29,000 dying. Bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia include streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus and anaerobic bacteria.

Doctor Doll, who presented her findings at the annual IDWeek conference in New Orleans added: ‘Our study provides further evidence that oral health is linked to overall health and suggests that it is important to incorporate dental care into routine preventative health care.’

It comes after news recently that anti-plaque toothpaste could help prevent heart attacks and strokes almost as well as statins.

So many studies, so many discoveries, some contradictory – but all point to the fact that hygiene in all parts of one’s body is the best preventative medicine one can have.


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