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.

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.