Professional oral health care reduces the number of oropharyngeal bacteria

J Dent Res. 2008 Jun;87(6):594-8. doi: 10.1177/154405910808700602.


Silent aspiration of oropharyngeal pathogenic organisms is a significant risk factor causing pneumonia in the elderly. We hypothesized that regular oral hygiene care will affect the presence of oropharyngeal bacteria. Professional cleaning of the oral cavity and/or the gargling of a disinfectant liquid solution was performed over a five-month period in three facilities for the dependent elderly. Total oropharyngeal bacteria, streptococci, staphylococci, Candida, Pseudomonas, and black-pigmented Bacteroides species were monitored. The levels of these oropharyngeal bacteria decreased or disappeared after weekly professional oral health care, i.e., cleaning of teeth, dentures, tongue, and oral mucous membrane by dental hygienists. After lunch, gargling with povidone iodine was shown to be less effective than professional oral care. These findings indicate that weekly professional mechanical cleaning of the oral cavity, rather than a daily chemical disinfection of the mouth, can be an important strategy to prevent aspiration pneumonia in the dependent elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dental Care for Aged*
  • Dental Prophylaxis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Oropharynx / microbiology*
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / prevention & control*