Dentures and Risk of Pneumonia

false teeth photo
Photo by Jim Sneddon
A study in Japan linked seniors age 85 and older who sleep in dentures to increased incidents of pneumonia. Head researcher, Toshimitsu Linuma at the Nihon University School of Dentistry, along with a team of colleagues conducted a study consisting of 524 elderly people in metropolitan Tokyo. The group included 296 female and 228 male random test subjects with a combined average age of 88.

Scientists created dentures to replace missing teeth. There are partials that replace only part of the teeth and a set replaces them all. The purpose of dentures is to provide the wearer with a device that allows them to eat better and increase their self-esteem. To maintain proper oral hygiene, the removable dentures need brushed twice daily just like real teeth.

The limited research study evaluated oral hygiene habits along with a blood chemistry examination for 3 years. The team followed up yearly on the test subjects, carefully documenting hospitalization or death from pneumonia. The results prompted the American and International Dental Associations to announce the need for a community based program aimed at good oral hygiene and convincing the elderly that sleeping in their dentures was a health hazard.

40% of Subjects That Slept With Dentures at Risk

The study revealed surprising results. Of the 524 geriatric test subjects, 186 or approximately 40 per cent of the group who slept in dentures had an increased risk of pneumonia versus those who took the dentures out at night. Within the 3 year test period 28 people were hospitalized with pneumonia and 20 died from the disease.

It is difficult for elderly people who wear dentures around the clock to maintain good oral hygiene. The habit of sleeping in dentures at night leads to increased occurrences of pneumonia as well as other health issues. Researchers found, along with pneumonia, additional risk factors during the study for the elderly.

Pneumonia was the most serious health risk. Some of the other notable issues include a higher risk of fungal infections, especially candidacies. The researchers noted that as a group the test subjects made fewer dental visits. They also had a higher accumulation of tongue and denture plaque in their mouth. In turn, the poor hygiene led to an increase in decay, gum disease and increased levels of interleukin-6.

Dental Hygiene is Important For Denture Wearers

The researchers gave The Journal of Dental Research Study the title of Denture Wearing during Sleep Doubles the Risk of Pneumonia in Very Elderly. The study was convincing enough to prompt Frauke Mueller from the Switzerland University of Geneva to pen an article titled Oral Hygiene Reduces the Mortality from Aspiration Pneumonia in Frail Elders.

The article noted that the study clearly indicated wearing dentures during the night put the elderly at an increased risk of illness. The article concluded that geriatric patients should be discouraged from wearing dentures while they slept. Researchers added the study was small. They concluded that the connection between pneumonia and wearing denture at night needed additional studies on a larger scale.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
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