Regular dental checkups are vital to maintaining good oral health. They allow your dentist to assess your gums, teeth, and bite position; to conduct an extensive teeth-cleaning; and to monitor for other ailments that may begin as dental issues.

According to new research, these routine dental visits may also lessen your risk for pneumonia.

Woman with pneumonia, coughing in bed

Pneumonia and Your Oral Health

Pneumonia claims the lives of about 50,000 Americans each year, and it afflicts about 1 million annually. This dangerous lung infection is often caused by bacteria, some of which take up residence in our mouths and can be inhaled or aspirated into the lungs.

Previous clinical research has demonstrated that dentist-administered teeth-cleanings remove substantial levels of bacteria that can contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. The research team behind a recent study believes that dental visits also reduce the amount of potentially harmful bacteria that may lead to pneumonia.

The Pneumonia, Dental Checkup Connection

Researchers with the Division of Infectious Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University reviewed data from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a large-scale poll of families, individuals, employers and medical providers about health-care and dental-care utilization.

Of more than 26,000 individual cases reviewed, researchers found 441 people who were diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Those who had no record of dental checkups were 86 percent more likely to have pneumonia than those who saw a dentist twice yearly. The study’s findings were presented at last month’s IDWeek conference, an annual scientific congress on infectious diseases.

How Checkups Help

A good dental checkup includes a thorough teeth-cleaning that removes plaque, tartar, and bacteria that brushing alone cannot. Researchers believe this process reduces the presence of dangerous bacteria and impedes their transmission.

Prior research has documented the link between oral infections and systemic ailments such as pneumonia, but a broad numeric association had not been made. The new study strengthens our knowledge of the bond between our dental health and our general health. Common oral health problems like periodontal disease can affect the onset and spread of health problems that include but are not limited to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Regular checkups are a good first line of defense against these problems, and they are an important component of preventive health care. Of course, they also help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile.

Rockland County cosmetic dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer understands the role of your dental health in your overall well-being. If you’re seeking a knowledgeable, compassionate dentist in the Nyack, NY, area, please call B & D Dental Excellence today at (845) 627-7645.