Attention to oral hygiene decreases as a patient experiences greater limitations to his or her mobility and the result is an increased risk for developing pneumonia, according to new research out of Yale University.

The study, which involved review of data from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study, revealed that incident mobility limitation was associated with a 1.8-fold increased risk, and higher mean oral plaque score, reflecting impaired oral hygiene, was associated with a 1.3-fold increased risk.

They found that 22% of pneumonia requiring hospitalization could be attributed to high levels of oral plaque or incident mobility limitation. Both of these factors, as the authors point out, are modifiable.

The authors found several non-modifiable factors associated with a significant risk for pneumonia hospitalization, which was elevated 2.1-fold in men, 1.4-fold in White patients, 3.1-fold by history of pneumonia, 1.8-fold by moderate lung disease, and 2.9-fold by severe lung disease.

Researchers suggest enhanced oral care in geriatric patients at risk for pneumonia to remove oral pathogenic bacteria and reduce the overall risk. They note, however, implementing such strategies could be difficult practically.

“Implementation of interventions to change these risk factors would require a cognitively intact group of older adults who could self-administer care,” the authors conclude. “It is unclear whether such interventions could be implemented in real-world practice.”