Association between pneumonia and oral care in nursing home residents

Lung. 2011 Jun;189(3):173-80. doi: 10.1007/s00408-011-9297-0. Epub 2011 Apr 30.


Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in nursing home residents. The accumulation of dental plaque and colonization of oral surfaces and dentures with respiratory pathogens serves as a reservoir for recurrent lower respiratory tract infections. Control of gingivitis and dental plaques has been effective in reducing the rate of pneumonia but the provision of dental care for institutionalized elderly is inadequate, with treatment often sought only when patients experience pain or denture problems. Direct mechanical cleaning is thwarted by the lack of adequate training of nursing staff and residents' uncooperativeness. Chlorhexidine-based interventions are advocated as alternative methods for managing the oral health of frail older people; however, efficacy is yet to be demonstrated in randomized controlled trials. Development and maintenance of an oral hygiene program is a critical step in the prevention of pneumonia. While resources may be limited in long-term-care facilities, incorporating oral care in daily routine practice helps to reduce systemic diseases and to promote overall quality of life in nursing home residents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Dental Plaque / complications
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control*
  • Dentures / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Frail Elderly
  • Gingivitis / microbiology
  • Gingivitis / prevention & control*
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Oral Hygiene*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / mortality
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / prevention & control*
  • Preventive Health Services*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Care
  • Toothbrushing
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Mouthwashes
  • Chlorhexidine