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The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Pneumonia-By Your Hygienist Dinah Carter!

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As a registered dental hygienist for almost ten years, I have noticed that many people seem to regard their oral hygiene in the same way that many others regard their foot care. Subconsciously, many view and treat their mouths like their feet as if they are not of equal importance to the body. The body is made up of several organs working together, each organ performs its separate function, but together they make one healthy whole.  No body parts are any less important to the total health of the unit than any other body part.

Some say the eyes are the window to the soul.  I would also add that the mouth is the window to the body. Therefore, if the mouth is unhealthy it will manifest its ugly head and if not properly cared for, the integrity of the whole body could eventually deteriorate.  Lately, I have observed many of my patients, classmates, and friends diagnosed with the dreaded pneumonia and suffering from other nasty respiratory infections. My concern compelled me to write this article to heighten awareness to the public of the importance of good oral health practices. These healthy habits can help prevent various infections throughout the body.

As an aspiring Ph.D. candidate in the field of Public Health, disease prevention is of great importance to me. In a scholarly article, Dr. Frank Scannapieco of SUNY Buffalo’s Dept of Oral Biology stated that bacterial pneumonia is a prevalent and costly infection, which is a significant cause of death and sickness in patients of all ages. The ongoing emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (e.g., penicillin-resistant pneumococci) suggests that bacterial pneumonia will be of increasing significance in the coming years. In addition, research published in the Journal of Periodontology states that the presence of gum disease might increase the risk of acquiring respiratory infections.


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Do not let these bacterial bugs invade your mouth and affect your health. Do not just stack up on your vitamins and medications, include some extra floss and remember to throw away your toothbrush after any throat infections or respiratory illness to avoid reinfection. The toothbrush can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Next time you are feeling too tired or busy to floss think about the party in your mouth where you are the uninvited guest of honor.

great tip:

Here is a great tip to introduce the habit of flossing:  crash the bacteria party in your mouth by flossing in the shower. I challenge you to add it to your shower routine.  FYI, do not flush the used floss in the toilet; it will clog!  That’s a lesson learned!

Flossing is #1 method of removing bacterial plaque, tooth brushing alone is not enough. The bristles are not small enough to get between the teeth. Think of it like this; it is like showering and not washing your underarms, eventually an odor will manifest.