Oral Health and Pneumonia in Older Adults

A recent study has drawn connections between the bacteria in one's mouth and an older adult with swallowing problems contracting pneumonia. Another study examines the steps needed to prevent this from occurring.

A 2018 study found that when aging patients frequently aspirate saliva, they may be inhaling bacteria from their mouth (particularly bacteria residing on their tongues). These bacteria can contribute to the development of pneumonia in these nursing home patients.pneumonia - paid - shutterstock 1160250262

The researchers determined that several oral health issues contributed to the development of pneumonia. They found that patients with poor oral health were at greater risk than others. The problems they identified were:
• Fewer teeth
• Poorer dental hygiene
• More dental caries
They concluded that attention should be given to the bacteria being transferred to the lungs due to aspiration related to a swallowing problem in these senior adults.

A second study, reported last week, found that the number of cases of pneumonia at nursing homes is reduced when oral care programs are initiated and sustained. This study involved 2,153 patients from 14 nursing homes. From this group, 1,219 patients received oral care from staff specifically trained to provide this care; the remaining 933 patients functioned as controls.

The nursing homes of the patients given the oral care program observed a 31% reduction in the number of pneumonia cases during the first year of the program. Unfortunately, this level of improvement was not sustained in the second year of the study.

In addition to some data acquisition limitations of the study, the researchers concluded that sustainability of care was a significant factor in the second-year results. They pointed out that the oral care program requires both trained personnel and time to implement the program. Both are in short supply in most nursing homes. They concluded that long-term sustainability of the positive results of the program may require dedicated staff trained as oral care aides.


Protecting You From Coronavirus

For your safety, and that of our staff, everyone who enters the Complete Dental Care office is screened for COVID19. As the number of new cases is rising across the country, we want you to understand that you are as safe as we can possibly make you while in our office.Coronavirus Prevention - paid - shutterstock 1743578639


Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are pushed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. For this reason, you will be required to wear a mask while in our office -- except while you are actively being treated.


Some procedures that require the use of ultrasonic instruments (ultrasonic drills, polishing tools, and the air/water syringe, for example), will not be used or will be used only under carefully controlled circumstances.


Some dental procedures and instruments can create a spray containing your saliva, water, and debris. Formation of the spray is called aerosolizing. These droplets quickly fall to the floor and settle on other surfaces. They may also remain in the air longer than we expect.


To protect you from these aerosolized particles, we have installed upgraded air filters. We also wait 15 minutes after you leave before we #disinfect the surfaces in the exam room. This allows time for these droplets to settle on surfaces, to be cleaned away.


Virus and bacteria control always have been an important part of the practice of dentistry. We want you to understand that we are taking every possible step to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the office. Your health is of paramount importance.

What is Cheek-Biting?

I keep biting my cheek. What can I do to stop this?  What causes it?

  1. It could be a simple accident.
  2. It could be a symptom of a temporomandibular disorder (TMJD). When your teeth or implants become cheek biting - paid - shutterstock 538724242misaligned in your mouth, it may cause you to bit your cheek regularly.
  3. It could be an expression of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).In this case, it is viewed as a "body-focused repetitive behavior."

Don't ignore the symptoms. 


The area where you bite your cheek can become thick, scarred, and pale. It might become inflamed and develop purple spots. Repeated cheek biting can cause tissues to erode. Finally, many chronic cheek biters develop emotional effects ranging from wanting to be isolated from others who might see the biting. It can also cause low self-esteem in some people. 


Who can help me?


Your dentist is likely the person who can best help you to identify the cause of the biting and offer some treatments. Your dentist will be able to determine if the biting occurs as a simple accident or if you have temporomandibular disorder. In these cases, your dentist may prescribe a custom mouthguard to protect fragile cheek tissues.


If it becomes clear to your dentist that your cheek-biting is a body-focused repetitive behavior, you will probably be referred to your primary care physician or a counselor.


If you or someone you love is cheek-biting, give us a call. 

Why is dental care and oral health so important for senior adults?

Good oral health is vital for senior adults. Poor oral health can contribute to the development and progress of a number of health problems and conditions. Dental hygiene is critical to maintaining good oral health. The most common health problems that affect senior adults and are believed to be connected with oral health.

  1. Diabetes. High levels of blood sugar due to #diabetes can cause gum infections. When the gum disease progresses into periodontitis, it interferes with the person’s ability to use insulin. older woman dental care Sm
  2. Pneumonia. Poor oral health is connected with #pneumonia because it is often caused by breathing in bacteria from your mouth into your lungs. These lung infections are more common in older adults. In some cases, difficulties in performing the tasks of dental hygiene, which is challenging for many older adults, is an important factor in developing pneumonia. This can be especially difficult for those residing in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Many of these facilities are unable to assist residents because they lack the training and the time.
  3. Heart Disease. The American Academy of Periodontology has estimated that older adults with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have coronary artery disease. The connection is primarily between gum disease and #heartdisease.
  4. Gum Disease. Allowing food and plaque to remain on your teeth causes gum disease, as does use of tobacco, poor diet, and poorly fitting dentures or bridges. #Gumdisease, in turn, contributes to anemia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and pneumonia. It frequently causes tooth loss, as well.
  5. Root Decay. When the root of your tooth becomes exposed to acids from your food and beverages decay can occur in the root. The #root is not protected by enamel, and so is particularly vulnerable to decay. When the gums recede from the tooth root more and more of the tooth and the tooth root are exposed.
  6. Jawbone Changes. When you lose teeth and you do not replace them with a bridge or denture, the surrounding teeth often “drift” into the open spaces created when the tooth was lost. In time, your #jawbone becomes irregular or uneven. Gradually, the teeth will be visibly irregular. This will also affect your bite, and may cause jaw pain.
  7. Tooth Discoloration. Two factors contribute to tooth #discoloration as we age. First, color of the dentin (the layer of tooth just below the enamel) may change due to staining by the foods and beverages you consume. In addition, the enamel layer begins to thin, which allows the yellow of the dentin to show through the enamel. The result is that the teeth will be darkened.
  8. Stomatitis due to denture fit. This kind of# inflammation of the gums beneath your #denture is typically caused by poor dental hygiene, rubbing of an ill-fitting denture, or a buildup of Candida albicans fungus. It is painful and unpleasant.
  9. Dry Mouth. Dry mouth can affect you at any age. It is never pleasant. #Drymouth may be caused by an auto-immune disease or by medications you take at your doctor’s direction. It is more common in older adults because aging often requires more medications. Because your mouth is dry due to failure to produce saliva, you do not process food and beverage acid or remove bacteria or viruses. As a result, you are subject to tooth decay, gum disease, growth of fungi in your mouth. In some cases, it can be difficult to keep dentures in place.

These challenges typically faced by older adults can usually be managed and treated. Excellent dental hygiene and regular visits to your dentist will enable you to manage these effects.

Bruxism: What You Should Know

Bruxism (excessive teeth-grinding) is a sleep disorder that affects both adults and children. The grinding can cause headaches and jaw pain. Teeth-grinding affects mostly your bicuspids and wears down or erodes the enamel surface of your teeth. Bruxism may be characterized by grinding from side to side or front to back, or by clenching teeth (up and down).

bruxism mouth guard - paid - shutterstock 1660858612

Bruxism most commonly occurs and night (hence considering it a sleep disorder). This grinding of teeth can, however, occur during the daytime. It tends to be milder during the daytime because you are awake and, presumably, have greater control of your actions. Teeth grinding at night exerts significantly more force than teeth grinding during the day.

Affecting about 40 million Americans, bruxism can cause irreversible damage to your teeth. It also contributes to a number of health problems when not treated. It is a common causal factor in the development of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. (The temporomandibular joint connects your skull to your jaw.)


Bruxism is identified by a number of signs and symptoms. You may experience one symptom or several. A dentist is often the first person to note and identify these symptoms. Unless you have a good bit of pain, you may not notice the signs of wear that occur over time.

  1. Worn or chipped teeth.
  2. TMJ pain in the jaw, face, or neck.
  3. Headaches.
  4. Earaches.
  5. Sore gums and teeth.
  6. Inability to get restful sleep.


Bruxism often begins with stress teeth-grinding. This may then lead to or reveal other causes.

  1. Stress or Anxiety.
  2. Smoking cigarettes.
  3. Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications.
  4. Sleep apnea or snoring.
  5. Parkinson’s Disease.
  6. Caffeine.
  7. Drinking alcohol.

Prevention and Treatment

One way to treat or prevent bruxism is wearing a teeth-grinding night mouth guard or bite guard. These guards are available over-the-counter. The best-fitting and most effective are the guards fitted or made by a dentist.

Sometimes recent dental work can cause your teeth to be misaligned. Clenching your teeth seems to alleviate the discomfort. This problem is easily resolved with a return trip to your dentist.


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