New research presented at an infectious disease conference in the US shows your risk of pneumonia almost doubles if you don't routinely see the dentist.
Regular check ups at the dentist do more than keep your teeth and gums healthy; they dramatically decrease the risk of pneumonia, new research suggests.
Good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present and therefore reduce the risk of the serious lung infection, says Michelle Doll, an assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Research presented at IDWeek 2016 in New Orelans this week suggests people who don't get dental checkups are almost twice as likely to develop pneumonia than those who visit the dentist twice a year.
"There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia, and dental visits are important in maintaining good oral health," said Dr Doll.
Researchers analysed data obtained from the US 2013 Medical Expediture Panel Survey, which asks about healthcare utilisation, including dental care, costs and patient satisfaction.
They found 441 of 26,246 people in the database had bacterial pneumonia - that represents just 1.68 per cent.
But those who never had dental checkups had an 86 per cent increased risk of pneumonia.
In some cases, bacteria can be accidentally inhaled or aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia include streptococcus, haemophilus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria.
Dr Doll says it's not the first study to link dental health with overall health but their research yet again highlights the importance of routine dental visits.