Woman blowing her nose on a couch

Your West Linn family dental care provider wants our patients to know that twice-yearly trips to Dugger Dentistry could do more than just protect the long-term health of your teeth and gums: it may also decrease your risk of pneumonia by reducing bacteria in the mouth, according to claims in a recent study.

Roughly 1 million Americans develop pneumonia every year, resulting in 50,000 deaths. While pneumonia is far more likely to occur in seniors and individuals with conditions such as lung disease or AIDS, anyone can get pneumonia. Based on a review of a national database of over 26,000 people, the new research discovered that individuals who never received dental checkups were 86 percent more likely to develop pneumonia when compared to those who visit a dentist at least twice a year.

Pneumonia & Your Oral Health

Over the years, research has found a well-documented connection between pneumonia and oral health, explained researchers in their findings. This makes practicing quality oral hygiene at home and receiving regular dental care an important part of protecting not only an individual’s oral health, but his or her overall health as well.

Researchers examined data obtained from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which asked participants a range of questions pertaining to healthcare, costs and overall patient satisfaction. Researchers discovered that 441 of the over 26,000 respondents in the database suffered from bacterial pneumonia and that those who never received dental checkups were 86 percent more likely to develop pneumonia.

The human body contains 10 times more microbes (viruses, fungi and bacteria) as human cells whether in or on the body, from the skin to the stomach. Some microbes play a beneficial role while others pose a potential health risk. In some cases, bacteria can be inadvertently inhaled or aspirated into the lungs, causing pneumonia. Bacteria that commonly causes pneumonia include anaerobic, staphylococcus, haemophiuls and streptococcus bacteria. Regular dental visits may help to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that can be aspirated – or breathed – into the lungs.

This latest study is just one of many in recent years that firmly establishes a connection between an individual’s oral and overall health.

Protecting Your Long-Term Health

In addition to increasing your risk of pneumonia, studies have found that individuals suffering from poor oral health – defined as those with tooth decay and gum disease – have a significantly higher risk of developing a range of chronic health conditions. Researchers have found compelling links between oral disease and such conditions as heart disease, stroke, dementia, arthritis, diabetes and even cancer. While researchers remain uncertain as to what links these types of diseases with poor oral health, the connection seems clear.

Much as with the spread of harmful oral bacteria into the lungs, researchers believe that harmful oral bacteria can spread to arteries in the heart, brain and joints where they cause inflammation to develop. A natural part of the body’s immune system, inflammation is also the root cause of all systemic disease. Conditions that cause unwanted inflammation – such as gum disease – present a serious risk to our long-term health.

Fortunately, you can help lower your risk of gum disease by taking three easy steps:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Schedule regular dental exams and cleanings with your West Linn family dental care provider.

That’s it! By following these three easy steps, you can significantly lower your risk of a range of chronic illnesses while also protecting the long-term health of your teeth and gums.

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