General Health

Poor Oral Health Can Increase Risk of Aspiration Pneumonia

By Nicole R December 14, 2020 No Comments


Aspiration pneumonia is a type of pneumonia that can be caused by the accidental infiltration of bacteria from the mouth into the lungs. The aspiration alone DOES NOT cause pneumonia. It is the bacteria in the mouth that enters the lungs with or without food which causes pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia is more common in elderly people who have difficulty swallowing and cleaning their mouth properly. Bacteria in the mouth multiplies rapidly and can trickle into the lungs during sleep. The bacteria are then in position to cause pneumonia.

Lifestyle changes, such as improving oral hygiene can help to prevent aspiration pneumonia. Care of the mouth with regular oral hygiene measures such as brushing one’s teeth and tongue with toothpaste is very effective in minimizing the bacterial colonization in the mouth. Note: It is also recommended to brush the teeth prior to eating to remove bacteria that may be aspirated along with food by someone whose swallowing muscles have been weakened by stroke, dementia, etc.

You may be aware of hospitalization measures to use pink/blue oral sponges to remove “pocketed” food out of the checks for those with swallowing issues. However; the sponge DOES NOT remove the bacteria in the mouth that causes pneumonia. “Toothbrushing reduces the risk of developing pneumonia in patients on ventilators by 50% as compared to those using oral sponges.” (Ross, Crumpler, 2015)

Minimizing bacterial colonization of the mouth is essential as it only takes 48 hours for a hospitalized, critically ill patient to suffer the change of the typical gram-positive streptococci to gram-negative microorganisms (pathogenic bacteria) that cause pneumonia.

Tandem Strength & Balance recognizes all facets of physical health that need to be monitored to ensure an elderly person’s ability to maintain or improve their quality of life. TS&B helps elders perform life-saving activities that are often overlooked, such as brushing of teeth to prevent aspiration pneumonia.

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