Did you know that if you don't take care of your dentures, it can even lead to pneumonia? According to a new study, harmful bacteria in unclean dentures can increase the risk of pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by certain types of bacteria such as Streptococcus bacteria (pneumococcus). These bacteria can live in the throat without causing infection in healthy people. However, when the body's immunity becomes weak, the bacteria can go down into the lungs, causing infection and inflammation. Pneumonia is a common cause of mortality in elderly people.

In the latest study, published in the Journal of Microbiology, researchers from Cardiff University in Wales, the U.K., analyzed denture samples from nursing home patients with and without pneumonia. They specifically looked for microbes that could cause pneumonia.

"We were expecting to see a difference, but were surprised to see 20 times the number of potentially pneumonia-causing bacteria on dentures in people with pneumonia, compared to people without," said Dr. Josh Twigg, the lead researcher of the study.

The team clarified that the study does not indicate that people get pneumonia by wearing dentures.

"It's just showing that there is an association there. This research is an early step in trying to unravel that puzzle of what exactly is the sequence of events. Our research has shown that there are potentially harmful microbial communities on dentures. It is important to clean dentures thoroughly," Twigg added.

Tips to keep your dentures clean

1. Clean the dentures after eating - The dentures should be washed under running water to remove food debris after each meal. It is also important to brush the dentures at least once a day using a soft-bristled brush and nonabrasive denture cleanser to remove food plaque and other deposits.

2. Clean the mouth after removing dentures - Using a soft-bristled brush, you must clean the tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth and the natural teeth after the dentures are removed.

3. Handle the dentures with care - Make sure you handle the dentures carefully without damaging their shape while cleaning.

4. Soak the dentures overnight - Most types of dentures need to be soaked in water or a mild denture-soaking solution overnight. Soaking the dentures helps in retaining the shape and moisture.

5. Get regular dental checkups - Consult your dentist regularly to ensure the dentures are in proper shape and fit you perfectly. Loose dentures can cause irritation, sores and infection.