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A recent study published by researchers in Japan found that elderly patients who wear dentures while they sleep have a higher risk of developing pneumonia than those who remove them.

The study examined 524 seniors with a median age of 87.8 years old (453 of which wore dentures) and tracked the participants' oral health and hygiene status, as well as medical issues. The patients were reexamined each year until their hospitalization or death from pneumonia .. In the three-year span of the study, there were 48 events associated with pneumonia, including deaths or acute hospitalizations.

40.8% of the denture wearers (186 patients) reported wearing their dentures while sleeping. Researchers found these study participants were more likely to have gum inflammation, tongue and/or denture plaque and other oral health issues, and were at a 2.3-fold higher risk for pneumonia than those who removed their dentures before sleep. Wearing dentures while sleeping also resulted in a greater oral inflammatory and microbial burden.

The study concluded that physicians and dentists should discourage geriatric patients from wearing dentures while they sleep to minimize the risk of pneumonia.