What is Aspiration pneumonia?

Aspiration Pneumonia

 Aspiration pneumonia refers to the inflammation caused by the entry of external substances (such as food, water, gastric acid, etc.) into the respiratory system and reaching the lungs. Unlike typical pneumonia, it is not an infection transmitted through the air, but rather a condition where bacteria-laden foreign material enters the lungs through the bronchi instead of the esophagus, leading to infection.

 Since harmful bacteria present in the mouth can pass into the lungs along with food, aspiration pneumonia is more lethal than pneumonia caused by respiratory infections. Actually, the mortality rate for general pneumonia is reported to be between 19.4% and 28.3%, but the mortality rate for aspiration pneumonia is known to reach as high as 55% to 70%.



 Aspiration pneumonia is caused by the entry of food and other substances into the lungs through the airway. It is a condition commonly experienced by individuals with compromised lung function, neurological disorders, or underlying medical conditions.

Generally, healthy individuals are protected from the entry of food and other substances into the airway through natural reflex actions (such as coughing or gagging) and the defensive capabilities of the lungs. However, in certain situations, even healthy individuals may have a risk of aspiration pneumonia. There can be various causes of aspiration pneumonia, including:

  1. Food: It can occur when food enters the airway instead of the esophagus and travels towards the lungs. This is more common in individuals with conditions such as esophageal dysphagia, swallowing disorders, impaired cough reflex, or in elderly individuals and those with neurological disorders.

  2. Gastric Acid Reflux: When stomach acid refluxes from the stomach into the esophagus and some of it reaches the respiratory tract, it can lead to aspiration pneumonia. The acidic components of gastric acid can irritate lung tissues and cause inflammation.

  3. Vomiting: During episodes of vomiting, food or stomach contents can enter the airway. Severe vomiting can increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia.

  4. Poor Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can create an environment for the growth and proliferation of bacteria and microorganisms in the oral cavity. These microorganisms can then be aspirated into the lungs, leading to aspiration pneumonia.

  5. Other Causes: Aspiration pneumonia can also occur in situations such as choking, general anesthesia, loss of consciousness, accidents, and trauma where airway control is temporarily compromised or abnormal breathing occurs.

 These are some of the common causes of aspiration pneumonia, where external substances are inhaled into the respiratory tract and cause inflammation in the lungs.



 Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia can vary, and their severity depends on the type and amount of aspirated material as well as the individual's health condition. Generally, the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia may include:

  • Cough: Coughing is the most common symptom of aspiration pneumonia. It is a natural defense mechanism to remove foreign substances from the lungs.

  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing and experiencing respiratory sounds or breathlessness can occur.

  • Chest pain: There may be chest pain or discomfort associated with inflammation of lung tissue.

  • Fever: Aspiration pneumonia can cause fever as a result of inflammation and infection.

  • Fatigue and weight loss: Aspiration pneumonia can increase energy expenditure, leading to fatigue and unintentional weight loss.

  • Other symptoms: Other symptoms of aspiration pneumonia may include phlegm production, chest congestion, vomiting, chills, nausea, bloody sputum, dizziness, among others.

 These symptoms can vary depending on the nature of the aspirated material and the individual's health condition.


Risk of complications

 Aspiration pneumonia can cause serious complications, and in severe cases, it can lead to death. Foreign substances entering the lungs can result in inflammation, infection, and respiratory failure. Particularly, chemical pneumonia caused by acid reflux or toxic substances can cause severe damage to the respiratory tissues.

Complications of aspiration pneumonia can include acute respiratory distress, lung failure, sepsis, and lung abscess. These complications can progress to a critical state, and if not diagnosed and treated early, they can be life-threatening. Older adults, individuals with underlying health conditions, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing complications.


Risk factors: Who gets it?

 Aspiration pneumonia is easily developed by individuals suffering from conditions such as dysphagia, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and others. However, apart from these illnesses, dysphagia can also occur as a natural aging process. It means elderly people are also in danger. Hence, even in the absence of any particular diseases, individuals who frequently experience swallowing difficulties or a sensation of food getting stuck in the throat during meals should exercise caution.



Aspiration pneumonia and Oral health

 As mentioned in the section on causes, dental plaque, which is a bacterial film, exists on the surface of teeth. When this plaque is inhaled into the lungs along with saliva through the bronchial tubes, it can cause aspiration pneumonia. Therefore, maintaining oral hygiene is of utmost importance. Harmful bacteria present in the mouth can be more lethal as they pass into the lungs with food than respiratory infections causing pneumonia.


Best prevention for aspiration pneumonia in oral care

 In terms of oral care, the only way to prevent aspiration pneumonia is by thoroughly and frequently brushing the teeth. However, many individuals at risk of aspiration pneumonia are unable to brush their teeth independently and thus require assistance from caregivers or family members. However, even in the process of helping brushing their teeth, careful assistance is necessary because the water can pass through the airway.

 While care facilities or specialized hospitals use suction hoses during oral care, it is challenging to utilize such equipment at home. In that case, how can oral care be assisted at home?


bluereo Electric suction toothbrush G100

A picture of bluereo's electric suction toothbrush on the table.

 Introducing the bluereo G100, which can be helpful in such situations.

 The G100 is the world's first electric toothbrush equipped with a suction function and has the following four features!

  • Water Suction 500ml Per Minute: The water inside the mouth is drawn out through the suction holes located on the top of the brush head, through the tube, to the foldable bottle.

  • Soft Sonic Vibration: Soft Sonic Vibration that spreads through your mouth. Sonic vibrations of 14,000 times per minute protect your sensitive gums, which also provides effective cleansing.

  • LED Light: LED light completes the convenient brushing. It is attached to the toothbrush head and brightens up the inside of your mouth while brushing.

  • Antibacterial Brush For Sensitive Teeth: Soft and antibacterial bristles help caregivers to provide hygienic oral care. Caregivers can replace the brush heads to take care of multiple recipient.

 Through the above four functions, it can help keep the oral clean for patients with swallowing disorders, strokes, and Parkinson's disease who are vulnerable to aspiration pneumonia. With the G100, you can reduce the brushing time, which used to take more than 30 minutes, by over half! And also there are many benefits!

For more detail, check our product page





 Aspiration pneumonia is a serious condition caused by the entry of external substances into the lungs, leading to inflammation. It is more dangerous than typical pneumonia and has a high mortality rate.

Common causes include the inhalation of food, gastric acid reflux, vomiting, poor oral hygiene, and compromised airway control. Symptoms vary but often include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, and fatigue. Complications can be life-threatening, such as respiratory failure and lung abscess.

Elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk. Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial in preventing aspiration pneumonia. The bluereo G100, electric suction toothbrush can provide effective assistance in oral care for those people in risk.