Could tooth loss and subsequent use of dentures increase the risk of pneumonia? While dentures provide a lifeline for many who are edentulous, recent research suggests a potential connection between denture use and pneumonia risk.1
Pneumonia, an inflammation of the lower respiratory tract that occurs when lung air sacs fill with exudate or bacteria, is a serious health concern for all ages. However, it’s particularly prevalent among individuals 65 years and above. Research from the UK suggests that denture wearers might be at an increased risk of developing this disease.
Recent research suggests a connection between changes in oral microbial communities and respiratory infections in vulnerable individuals. Studies have found links between dental biofilm and respiratory infections, especially in ventilator-associated pneumonia cases. This study aimed to investigate the oral microbial composition on denture surfaces in patients with pneumonia to understand the potential role of denture biomaterials in promoting respiratory infections.1
The research team from Cardiff University began their investigation by collecting samples from the mouth, tongue, and dentures of hospitalized patients who had pneumonia and wore dentures. These samples were then compared to those from denture-wearing patients in nursing facilities who were pneumonia-free.1
The team then scrutinized these samples to identify the quantity and variety of microbes present. They were particularly interested in microbes known to potentially cause pneumonia and whether there were any significant differences between the two groups.1
The research team hypothesized that they would find an increase in putative respiratory pathogens, specifically P. aeruginosa, S. aureus, and S. pneumoniae, on dentures and other oral sites of those clinically diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia compared to respiratorily healthy individuals. This evidence would support the role of denture acrylic biomaterials as a potential respiratory pathogen colonization site, which may increase the risk for pneumonia.1
The results showed greater than a 20-fold increase in putative respiratory pathogens on the dentures of pneumonia patients compared to respiratorily healthy individuals. These results highlight the role dentures may play as a respiratory pathogen colonization site.1
The connection between the oral microbiome and pneumonia has potential diagnostic implications due to the proximity of the oral cavity to the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Sampling the oral cavity for microbial analysis could offer a more accessible and reliable way to identify potential causative microorganisms and determine antimicrobial susceptibility profiles for pneumonia.1
However, the research team cautions that while the study points to a possible link, it doesn’t definitively prove that denture use causes pneumonia. The research merely shows an association. The sequence of events needs clarifying for a better understanding of this association.1
Despite the need for further research, the study provides valuable insight. The findings highlight the presence of potentially harmful microbial communities on dentures. It underscores the importance of thorough denture cleaning.1
Denture use will likely never be obsolete; therefore, it’s crucial to educate patients about the potential risks associated with improper denture care and the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene, even in the absence of teeth. This study serves as a reminder of the broader health implications of pathogenic oral bacteria and the critical role dental hygienists play in patients’ overall health.
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- Twigg, J.A., Smith, A., Haury, C., et al. Compositional Shifts within the Denture-associated Bacteriome in Pneumonia – An Analytical Cross-sectional Study.Journal of Medical Microbiology. 2023;72(6). https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jmm/10.1099/jmm.0.001702