Oral biofilms, periodontitis, and pulmonary infections


  • S Paju,

    1. Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    2. Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
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  • FA Scannapieco

    1. Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
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Susanna Paju, Institute of Dentistry, PO Box 63, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland. Tel / fax: +358 919125194, E-mail: susanna.paju@helsinki.fi


Bacteria from the oral biofilms may be aspirated into the respiratory tract to influence the initiation and progression of systemic infectious conditions such as pneumonia. Oral bacteria, poor oral hygiene, and periodontitis seem to influence the incidence of pulmonary infections, especially nosocomial pneumonia episodes in high-risk subjects. Improved oral hygiene has been shown to reduce the occurrence of nosocomial pneumonia, both in mechanically-ventilated hospital patients and non-ventilated nursing home residents. It appears that oral colonization by potential respiratory pathogens, possibly fostered by periodontitis, and possibly by bacteria specific to the oral cavity or to periodontal diseases contribute to pulmonary infections. Thus, oral hygiene will assume an even more important role in the care of high-risk subjects – patients in the hospital intensive care and the elderly. The present paper critically reviews the recent literature on the effect of oral biofilms and periodontitis on pneumonia.