Regular dental checkups not only keep your smile bright, they may also keep your lungs healthy.
A new study suggests that regular dental cleanings could lower your risk of pneumonia by reducing levels of bacteria that cause the lung infection.
Each year, nearly 1 million Americans develop pneumonia, the researchers said, and 50,000 die from the disease. Anyone can get pneumonia, but it is more common among older people and those with lung disease and conditions such as AIDS.
In this study, researchers reviewed the records of more than 26,000 people. The study found that people who never saw a dentist were 86 percent more likely to get bacterial pneumonia compared to people who got dental checkups twice a year.
The results were to be presented Thursday at IDWeek. IDWeek is the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health," study author Dr. Michelle Doll said in an IDWeek news release. She's an assistant professor of internal medicine in the division of infectious disease at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Doll said the mouth will never be free of bacteria. But good dental care can limit the amount of bacteria that's in the mouth.
"Our study provides further evidence that oral health is linked to overall health, and suggests that it's important to incorporate dental care into routine preventive health care," Doll concluded.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on pneumonia.