Wearing Dentures During Sleep May Increase Risk of Pneumonia

Close up shot of dentures

As we get older we tend to run into health related problems. Fortunately, we can prevent most of them. Pneumonia is a common problem that is mostly related to the elderly. Pneumonia is categorized as a lung inflammation caused by a bacterial or viral infection. This infection leads to pus filling the air sacs in our lungs. The major reason why one might get pneumonia is because of poor oral health and hygiene.

Pneumonia is more common than people think. Pneumonia can be a very mild disease, but in some cases it can be very
dangerous. Pneumonia can affect a lobe of the lung, a whole lung, or both lungs, so there are different degrees to it. Most cases of pneumonia are fortunately short lived as they only may last two weeks. Having said this, symptoms of pneumonia can still be active for around a month.

Recently, research led by Toshimitsu Linuma has shown that there is also another cause or factor that plays into getting pneumonia. This factor is sleeping in dentures which surprisingly doubles the risk of getting pneumonia. The research consisted of randomly selecting 529 seniors that were at an average age of 87. After closely examining the patients through a three year period, it is known that 186 of the 453 denture wearers who were them at night were at a 40% higher risk for developing pneumonia. The reason for this is believed to be because of swallowing difficulties. Also, those who sleep with dentures have an increased risk of getting tongue and denture plaque and gum inflammation.

A big reason why dentures may be causing pneumonia is because of the bacteria from the dentures. Studies have shown that those who have slept with dentures also tend to clean their dentures less. Given this, the bacteria now has an opportunity to grow and develop and make its way to your lungs. When bacteria is not removed from the dentures it will grow and remain on the dentures. From here, one may breath in the bacteria which will result to it entering the lungs where pneumonia will be developed. Since the elderly have weaker immune systems it may only take a small amount of bacteria from a denture to form pneumonia.

There are contrasting ideas whether one should were dentures or not to sleep. Some believe that wearing dentures at night prevent sleep apnea because dentures help keep airways open. A solution to this problem has been found, in which an oral appliance can be used to prevent sleep apnea, so now there should be no use for dentures while asleep. If one must really sleep with them it is extremely important to wash them everyday to prevent bacteria from growing on it. An adequate way to clean them would be to soak them in peroxide-based cleaner everyday and to let them air dry on a towel.

If you or someone you know wears dentures to bed and your are concerned about their health you should contact your dentist. This is a hidden and unnoticed problem happening today that can be giving many people pneumonia. Good oral health and hygiene are a must in order to protect your respiratory organs. Addressing your daily health situations can help you tremendously down the road.

Nadia Kiderman is a specialist of oral health and dentist.

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