This study aimed to assess the oral health and the prevalence of pre-existing oral colonization with respiratory pathogens in dependent elderly, and whether these factors influence pneumonia development.

Materials and Methods

Participants residing in a long-term care facility received bedside oral examinations, and information on their oral health (caries status, calculus index and debris index) was obtained. Samples from the tongue and teeth were collected at baseline and at time of pneumonia development. Sputum was collected at the time of pneumonia diagnosis. Samples were assessed for Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae by polymerase chain reaction.


This was a 1-year longitudinal study of 60 dependent elderly (mean age: 64.2 ± 14.1 years). Seventeen patients (28.3%) developed pneumonia. The mean Decayed, Missing and Filled Teeth and Simplified Oral Hygiene Index were 22.8 ± 9.2 and 4.0 ± 1.0, respectively. At baseline, 48.3% were orally colonized with ≥1 respiratory pathogens. The presence of H. influenzae (P = .002) and P. aeruginosa (P = .049) in the sputum was significantly associated with their colonization on the tongue at baseline. In the bivariate analyses, pneumonia development was associated with naso-gastric feeding tube (P = .0001), H. influenzae (P = .015) and P. aeruginosa (P = .003) tongue colonization at baseline and calculus index (P = .002). Multivariate analyses revealed that calculus index (P = .09) and the presence of tracheostomy (P = .037) were associated with pneumonia.


The calculus amount and tongue colonization with respiratory pathogens are risk factors for pneumonia development. Oral hygiene measures to remove tongue biofilm and calculus may reduce pneumonia development.

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