Sleeping in dentures has been identified as a major risk factor for the development of pneumonia among the elderly, according to a study in Journal of Dental Research.

Lead author Toshimitsu Iinuma, DDS, PhD, and colleagues set out to identify modifiable risk factors for pneumonia related to oral health in a group of 524 men and women aged 85 years and older, 453 of whom wore dentures and 186 of whom wore their dentures overnight.

Over 3 years, 20 deaths and 28 acute hospitalizations were associated with pneumonia. Perceived swallowing difficulties and overnight denture-wearing were independently associated with an approximately 2.3-fold higher risk of pneumonia.

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Persons who wore dentures during sleep were also more likely to have tongue and denture plaque, gum inflammation, positive culture for Candida albicans, and higher levels of circulating interleukin-6.