, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 307–322 | Cite as

The Association Between Oral Microorgansims and Aspiration Pneumonia in the Institutionalized Elderly: Review and Recommendations

  • Cherin C. Pace
  • Gary H. McCulloughEmail author
Review Article


Aspiration pneumonia is a leading cause of illness and death in persons who reside in long-term-care facilities and, combined with the lack of proper oral health care and services, the risk of aspiration pneumonia rises. The purpose of this article is to review recent literature on oral hygiene and oral care in long-term-care facilities and report new findings regarding associated risks for aspiration pneumonia, as well as research on oral care and health outcomes. The PubMed MeSH database was utilized to direct a specific search by entering terms “aspiration pneumonia” and “oral hygiene” from 1970 to 2009, which yielded 34 articles. The Ovid and Google Scholar databases were utilized as well and provided no additional references for the two terms. A manual search of references from other articles, including three systematic reviews published over the past decade, provided additional information regarding oral microorganisms and respiratory pathogens, as well as investigations of oral care. Finally, a brief but comprehensive introductory review was organized regarding oral microorganisms, biofilm, periodontal disease, and pneumonia to establish a framework for discussion. Overall, studies suggest (1) an association between poor oral hygiene and respiratory pathogens, (2) a decrease in the incidence of respiratory complications when patients are provided chemical or mechanical interventions for improved oral care, (3) the complex nature of periodontal disease and aspiration pneumonia make direct connections between the two challenging, and (4) additional studies are warranted to determine adequate oral hygiene protocols for nursing home patients to further reduce the incidence of aspiration pneumonia.


Aspiration pneumonia Oral hygiene Long-term care Deglutition Deglutition disorders 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Dental HygieneUniversity of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Speech-Language PathologyUniversity of Central ArkansasConwayUSA

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