Study discourages sleep with dentures

Denture wearing during sleep doubles the risk of pneumonia in very old persons, according to a recent study.

Poor oral health and hygiene are increasingly recognized as major risk factors for pneumonia among the elderly. But little research is available on the association between oral health status and pneumonia. Wearers of dentures during sleep tend to have poor denture hygiene practices, fewer dental office visits, denture and tongue plaque that can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease and a common fungal infection called candidiasis, the study said.

Researchers investigated associations between oral health behaviors and incidences of pneumonia among 524 randomly selected seniors aged 85 or older, average age 87.8, living in the Tokyo, Japan, metropolitan area and described findings from a “relatively small” “limited” study needing more research.

Over a three-year period, 48 events associated with pneumonia were reported. Among 453 denture wearers, 186 or nearly 41 percent who wore their dentures during sleep were at higher risk for pneumonia than those who removed their dentures at night. Researchers titled the Journal of Dental Research study “Denture Wearing during Sleep Doubles the Risk of Pneumonia in the Very Elderly.”

This study provides empirical evidence that denture wearing during sleep is associated not only with oral inflammatory and microbial burden but also with incident pneumonia, suggesting potential implications of oral hygiene programs for pneumonia prevention in the community, the International and American Associations for Dental Research said in a news release. When possible, denture wearing during the night should be discouraged in geriatric patients, the journal said.

Dentures are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restore smiles. Like your teeth, dentures should be brushed daily to remove food particles and the sticky film called plaque, the American Dental Association advises. Visit ADA’s consumer website for more information on dentures and denture hygiene.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Oral Care Tips for DENTURES


  • Don't let dentures dry out – place them in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in plain water when you're not wearing them. Never use hot water, which can cause dentures to warp.
  • Brush your dentures – brushing dentures daily will remove food and dental plaque, and help prevent them from becoming stained.
  • Take care of your mouth – brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert dentures. This stimulates circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.
  • Consult your dentist – see your dentist if dentures break, chip, crack or become loose. Don't be tempted to adjust them yourself — this can damage them beyond repair.

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