Impact of oral diseases on systemic health in the elderly: diabetes mellitus and aspiration pneumonia

J Public Health Dent. Fall 2000;60(4):313-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-7325.2000.tb03341.x.


Evidence is increasing that oral health has important impacts on systemic health. This paper presents data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) describing the prevalence of dental caries and periodontal diseases in the older adult population. It then evaluates published reports and presents data from clinical and epidemiologic studies on relationships among oral health status, chronic oral infections (of which caries and periodontitis predominate), and certain systemic diseases, specifically focusing on type 2 diabetes and aspiration pneumonia. Both of these diseases increase in occurrence and impact in older age groups. The NHANES III data demonstrate that dental caries and periodontal diseases occur with substantial frequency and represent a burden of unmet treatment need in older adults. Our review found clinical and epidemiologic evidence to support considering periodontal infection a risk factor for poor glycemic control in type 2 diabetes; however, there is limited representation of older adults in reports of this relationship. For aspiration pneumonia, several lines of evidence support oral health status as an important etiologic factor. Additional clinical studies designed specifically to evaluate the effects of treating periodontal infection on glycemic control and improving oral health status in reducing the risk of aspiration pneumonia are warranted. Although further establishing causal relationships among a set of increasingly more frequently demonstrated associations is indicated, there is evidence to support recommending oral care regimens in protocols for managing type 2 diabetes and preventing aspiration pneumonia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology*
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Oral Health
  • Periodontal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Periodontal Diseases / therapy
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose