Gum Disease, Elderly Patients, and Aspiration Pneumonia, the common risk factors


Aspiration pneumonia is recognized as a major geriatric health problem. Many elderly patients in nursing home care are especially at risk. Colonization of Gram-negative bacteria found in the mouth where gum disease (periodontal disease) is present, has also been associated with aspiration pneumonia. All too often, the elderly patient and nursing home patient does not have routine oral health care and cleanings for many reasons.

The bacteria that accumulates in the mouth multiplies and colonizes. These bacteria then can be aspirated into the lungs with coughing and breathing through the mouth while sleeping as the salivary flow seeps into the lungs. During sleep, the swallowing reflex weakens, especially in the elderly and those with decreased activities of daily living such as bedridden. For those family members with decreased physical limitations, swabbing the oral cavity with Chlorhexidine (a prescription antimicrobial liquid rinse) every 24 hours has been proven to decrease pneumonia induced problems. For the patient who has dentures, it is equally important to remove them daily, swab the inside of the mouth with a cleanser, and disinfect the dentures of bacteria and food debris that has accumulated. Oral Health effects Systemic Health and this is why every one of all ages should have routine dental cleanings, oral cancer screenings; in and around the mouth, and under dentures, to promote a healthier lifestyle and a decreased risk of infection.

*Next month: Gum infection and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Written by: Bernadette Kozak, IPDH

Fryeburg Family Dental