Opportunistic infections in the oral cavity of the elderly may increase the incidence of systemic disease. The objective of this study was to investigate the differences in the oral bacterial flora between dependent elderly (inpatients) and independent elderly (community-dwelling residents). After multiple variables were taken into account, inpatients had significantly lower detection rates than community-dwelling residents for α-streptococci (p < 0.001) and Neisseria (p 0.004), and higher detection rates for Pseudomonas aeruginosa (p 0.024), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (p 0.011) and Actinomyces spp. (p 0.005). Among inpatients, the requirement for a high degree of care was related negatively to detection of α-streptococci, but was related significantly to detection of P. aeruginosa (p 0.018) or MRSA (p 0.004). Tube-fed inpatients had a significantly lower detection rate for α-streptococci (p 0.041) and a higher detection rate for P. aeruginosa (p 0.004) than those who did not require tube feeding. Inpatients with a history of antibiotic use had a significantly lower detection rate for α-streptococci (p 0.049) and a higher detection rate for MRSA (p 0.007) than those without a history of antibiotic use. The detection rates for P. aeruginosa or MRSA in inpatients without α-streptococci were higher than in inpatients with α-streptococci after controlling for age and gender (P. aeruginosa, p 0.006; MRSA, p 0.001). Overall, detection of α-streptococci had an inverse correlation with the detection of P. aeruginosa and MRSA in the oral cavity and is likely to be an indicator of pathogenic bacterial infection.