Skip to main content

Pneumonia and Poor Dental Health: Understanding the Link

Pneumonia and Poor Dental Health: Understanding the Link

Every year, millions of Americans develop pneumonia, with about 1 million seeking hospital care for the infection and about 50,000 dying as a result of their disease. While you can “catch” pneumonia in different ways, what a lot of people don’t know is that they can wind up infecting themselves simply by having poor oral health and hygiene.

At Park Place Smiles, Minal Patel, DDS, provides patients with comprehensive dental care and guidance to help reduce populations of germs that cause pneumonia. In this post, Dr. Patel explains the intriguing link between your oral health and your risk of pneumonia.

Understanding pneumonia

Your lungs are filled with tiny, air-filled sacs called alveoli. Pneumonia is an inflammatory infection that causes the alveoli to fill up with fluid, interfering with the normal exchange of oxygen and other gasses that help you breathe and supply your tissues with oxygen.

Pneumonia can affect one or both lungs. Your symptoms depend on the extent and severity of your infection and can include:

Older people and people with weak immune systems may develop a lower-than-normal temperature rather than an elevated fever.

Pneumonia is diagnosed through a physical exam, a review of your symptoms, and diagnostic imaging, like chest X-rays. While treatments are available, it can take weeks to recover from pneumonia, and people who have the infection can develop life-threatening complications, as well.

Oral health and pneumonia: A complex link

Pneumonia is caused by germs that enter your lungs. You can “catch” pneumonia the same way you catch a cold — by breathing in airborne droplets. However, data show some people develop pneumonia when they breathe in germs that live inside the mouth.

Specifically, poor oral hygiene habits allow harmful bacteria populations to grow and build up inside your mouth. When you breathe in, moist air from your mouth carries bacteria into your lungs, increasing the risk of infections. 

Ignoring dental care can also increase the risk of pneumonia. Cavities and gum disease are both associated with increased bacterial populations that can lead to pneumonia. Dry mouth can also elevate your risk of pneumonia by decreasing the natural “germ-fighting” mechanism of salivation.

Prioritize your oral health

Pneumonia isn’t the only serious health problem linked with oral health: Heart disease, cancer, and dementia are also on the list, among other significant medical issues. Improving your at-home hygiene habits plays an important role in reducing the risk of these diseases, and so do regular dental checkups.

Don’t leave your health up to chance. If it’s been a while since your last checkup, call 626-226-1802 or book an appointment online with Park Place Smiles in Glendora, California, today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

  Can a Crown Save My Painful Tooth

Can a Crown Save My Painful Tooth

“Crown saves painful tooth.” It might sound like a tabloid headline, but it’s actually true — a dental crown can be used to help save a damaged tooth, relieve painful symptoms, and restore your healthy smile. Here’s how.
How to Take Care of Your Veneers

How to Take Care of Your Veneers

Dental veneers can transform your smile and your confidence, too. Best of all, they’re easy to care for. Here, learn the basics of veneer care to help your new smile look its absolute best.

4 Practical Ways to Get Used to Your Dentures

Dentures play a pivotal role in restoring your smile, your bite function, and your confidence following tooth loss. These four simple strategies can help you enjoy the benefits even faster.

5 Ways to Make Flossing Easier (So You'll Actually Do It)

Flossing plays an essential role in keeping gum disease at bay, but even though it’s beneficial, developing a flossing habit can be hard. The good news: These five, simple tips can help you stick to your flossing habit, so you can reap the benefits.