Oral inflammation and infection, and chronic medical diseases: implications for the elderly

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Abstract

Oral diseases, such as caries and periodontitis, not only have local effects on the dentition and on tooth-supporting tissues but also may impact a number of systemic conditions. Emerging evidence suggests that poor oral health influences the initiation and/or progression of diseases such as atherosclerosis (with sequelae including myocardial infarction and stoke), diabetes mellitus and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others). Aspiration of oropharyngeal (including periodontal) bacteria causes pneumonia, especially in hospitalized patients and the elderly, and may influence the course of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This article addresses several pertinent aspects related to the medical implications of periodontal disease in the elderly. There is moderate evidence that improved oral hygiene may help prevent aspiration pneumonia in high-risk patients. For other medical conditions, because of the absence of well-designed randomized clinical trials in elderly patients, no specific guidance can be provided regarding oral hygiene or periodontal interventions that enhance the medical management of older adults.

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