How brushing teeth might protect against pneumonia

New analysis conducted by epidemiologists, Selina Ehrenzeller and Michael Klompas, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has revealed that maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing teeth regularly can lower the risk of contracting pneumonia while in the hospital. 

The researchers pooled data from 15 clinical trials involving over 2700 patients to investigate the impact of daily toothbrushing on preventing the common lung infection.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is a dangerous and potentially fatal lung infection that can further compromise the health of already-ill patients. With its incidence varying between 1 in 50 and 1 in 200 hospital admissions, preventing pneumonia is of utmost importance. Ehrenzeller and Klompas found that hospital-acquired pneumonia rates were significantly lower among patients who brushed their teeth daily, twice or more a day.


While hospitals take measures to prevent the spread of pathogens, it’s still important for someone to make brushing their teeth a part of their daily routine, especially ventilated patients. This is a cost-effective way to improve oral health and reduce cases of pneumonia.

Despite the provision of oral care using antiseptics, microflora often persist in biofilms. Physical disruption of these biofilms, achieved through toothbrushing, remains the most effective method to reduce microbe counts.

Klompas emphasizes the significance of these findings, stating that it is rare to find an inexpensive measure, such as toothbrushing, that can have a substantial impact on preventing infections.


Toothbrushing not only reduced pneumonia rates among mechanically ventilated patients but also resulted in shorter stays and fewer days of ventilation in intensive care patients. However, the analysis did not find a significant effect among non-ventilated patients, indicating the need for further research in this subgroup.

The researchers emphasize the importance of implementing an oral health routine that includes toothbrushing for hospitalized patients, particularly those on mechanical ventilation. Rupak Datta, a hospital epidemiologist at Yale School of Medicine, praises the analysis for providing compelling data that reinforces the idea that toothbrushing should be a standard component of care for ventilated patients.

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