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Tongue Microbiome Research Underscores Importance of Dental Health

August 16, 2018
by American Society for Microbiology


Elderly individuals with fewer teeth, poor dental hygiene, and more cavities constantly ingest more dysbiotic microbiota, which could be harmful to their respiratory health, according to new research published in the journal mSphere. The findings come from a large, population-based study that identified variations in the tongue microbiota among community-dwelling elderly adults in Japan.

“Fewer teeth, poorer dental hygiene, and more dental caries (cavities) experience are closely related to dysbiotic shift in the tongue microbiota composition, which might be harmful to the respiratory health of elderly adults with swallowing problems,” said corresponding author Yoshihisa Yamashita, PhD, DDS, Section of Preventive and Public Health Dentistry, Division of Oral Health, Growth, and Development, Faculty of Dental Science, Kyushu University, Fukuoka.

Prior to this study, researchers knew that constant aspiration of saliva can lead to pneumonia, a major cause of death among elderly adults with swallowing impairments, and that tongue microbiota are a dominant source of oral microbial populations that are ingested with saliva. Previous research has also shown that in institutionalized frail elderly adults, the dysbiotic shift of indigenous tongue microbiota is associated with an increased risk of death from pneumonia.

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