Brushing our teeth properly and regularly is known to prevent gum disease, but a new study led by an Indian origin scientist says it can also potentially reduce the risk of pneumonia.
Scientists from the Yale University School of Medicine found changes in mouth bacteria preceded the development of the inflammatory lung condition in hospital patients.
The team followed 37 subjects over a month. They found patients on ventilators who developed pneumonia had experienced a significant shift in the ‘bacterial composition’ in their mouths beforehand.
“Our findings may improve the way we prevent pneumonia in the future by maintaining the bacteria which live within our mouths,” the Daily Mail quoted lead author Dr Samit Joshi as telling ELS Global Medical News.
Although further research is required, the British Dental Foundation said the latest study is not the first to associate poor oral health with respiratory diseases.
Bacterial chest infections are thought to be caused by breathing in fine droplets from the throat and mouth into the lungs and earlier studies suggested people were more likely to die from pneumonia if they had higher numbers of deep gum pockets.
Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said the latest research backed their findings that looking after your teeth boost your overall health.
“During the winter months we’re all susceptible to colds, coughs and chesty viruses due to the drop in temperature,” said Dr Carter.
“What people must remember, particularly those highlighted as vulnerable, is that prevention can be very basic. Systemic links between gum disease and overall health have been well documented, and at this time of year keeping up good oral health can really help stave off illness,” he stated.
He added that dentists recommended brushing teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning in between teeth daily with interdental brushes or floss and avoiding sugary foods.
Dr Johsi's research was presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting in Boston.