There are some risks that we all know regular dentist appointments will reduce — the risk of cavities, the risk of plaque buildup, the risk of yellowed teeth. But did you know that going to the dentist can also reduce your risk of pneumonia?
Pneumonia affects nearly a million Americans annually, and as many as 50,000 of those people die as a result of the infection. Prominently presidential candidate Hillary Clinton developed a bout of it during the campaign, raising questions of her health. Older people, small children, and people with compromised immune systems are most likely to get pneumonia, but it can strike anyone.
And even if a clean bill of health does insulate you from the most drastic effects of pneumonia, you could spread it to others through coughing or sneezing. It’s clear that whatever we can do to reduce the risk of pneumonia should be done!
How Is Pneumonia Spread?
There are different types of pneumonia — some are caused by viruses, some by bacteria, and some by fungi.
Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria being aspirated into the lungs, which then causes infection. While that can happen as a result of bacteria made airborne by sneezing and coughing, it can also happen with the bacteria that already exist in your own mouth.
Mouths naturally contain bacteria, so fully eliminating the bacteria in the mouth isn’t possible. However, reducing the amount of bacteria present in the mouth can significantly reduce the risk of aspirating the sorts of bacteria that can cause pneumonia.
Clean Teeth, Clean Lungs
When researchers analyzed over 26,000 people with pneumonia, they found something striking. People who visited the dentist two or more times per year were a shocking 86% less likely to contract pneumonia. It’s clear that getting regular cleanings is not just good for your smile, but is effective preventive care for pneumonia as well!
Not everyone needs a cleaning every six months, but for most people, twice a year is a good baseline for healthy teeth. If you smoke, drink, or consume a lot of sugary foods or beverages, a six month schedule should suit you well. Additionally, gum disease, frequent cavities, or any condition that prevents you from regularly brushing, such as arthritis, are good reasons to ensure you get teeth cleanings twice annually.
As the season for pneumonia approaches, it’s a great time to tune up your dental hygiene accordingly! If you aren’t sure of the last time you had an appointment, or if the time has come and gone, give Dr. Kenneth Siegel a call at (610) 272-0828 or request an appointment online!