Dentures could play a role in causing pneumonia, if they are not cleaned properly, according to a study.

Unclean dentures provide a new surface where disease-causing microbes can colonise. People who wear dentures may then be aspirating (inhaling) saliva containing harmful microbes into their lungs, where an infection can then take hold, said the researchers from Cardiff University, UK.

In the study, they took mouth, tongue and denture swabs from a group of patients in hospital who had pneumonia and wore dentures. They then compared this to samples taken from denture-wearing patients in care homes who did not have pneumonia.

They then analysed the samples to identify the abundance and types of microbes present in the samples.


"We were expecting to see a difference but were surprised to see 20 times the number of potentially pneumonia-causing bacteria on dentures in people with pneumonia, compared to people without," said lead author Dr Josh Twigg, from the university.

While the study, published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, identifies a possible connection, Dr Twigg stresses: "You certainly couldn't say that people got pneumonia because they were wearing dentures. It's just showing that there is an association there. This research is an early step in trying to unravel that puzzle of what exactly is the sequence of events."

While more research needs to take place, the public can still learn from the findings, according to Dr Twigg.


"Our research has shown that there are potentially harmful microbial communities on dentures. It is important to clean dentures thoroughly," he said.

By attending the dentist regularly for check-ups and learning about the best way to look after your teeth, Dr Twigg hopes that more people will avoid needing to wear dentures entirely.

(With inputs from IANS)