Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

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Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

respiratory disease Periodontitis has been strongly linked to respiratory disease in recent studies. These researchers have determined that gum disease can make conditions like COPD worse and can cause a patient to get pneumonia, emphysema or bronchitis.

Periodontal disease is progressive and usually starts with a bacterial infection. The bacteria comes from plaque that starts to colonize in the gum tissue, leading to an inflammatory response that causes the body to destroy gums and eventually underlying bone. Those with the condition may notice what appears to be the lengthening of teeth. In reality, however, gums are receding as the disease gets worse. When not treated, bone tissue is eroded, and this leads to a less stable base for the teeth. Shifting and eventually complete tooth loss results.

There are many respiratory diseases with strong links to gum disease. These include pneumonia, COPD, bronchitis and others. In most cases, bacterial respiratory infections happen through the inhalation into the lungs of small droplets from the mouth. COPD, as one example, is a leading cause of death around the world and must be taken seriously.

Examining The Connection

It may seem far-fetched to establish a link between periodontal disease and respiratory disease, but there is significant evidence to support the connection.

Among the reasons for the link between these two conditions are these:
  • Bacterial spread. The kind of bacteria that leads to gum disease easily can be drawn down into the lungs. Once this bacteria starts to colonize there, it can lead to pneumonia and make other conditions like COPD worse.
  • Low immunity. It is well documented that people with persistent and chronic respiratory problems have low immunity. This condition allows bacteria from the mouth to embed below the gum line without challenge from the immune system. This accelerates the progression of the gum disease and means that sufferers are at an increased risk for pneumonia, emphysema and CPOD.
  • Modifiable factors. Smoking is believed to be the leading cause of COPD and many other respiratory diseases. Using tobacco also damages the gums and slows down the healing process, allowing gum pockets to deepen and increasing the speed of attachment loss. Smoking isn’t the only cause of gum disease, but it is a cofactor that can be avoided.
  • Inflammation. Gum disease causes irritation and inflammation of oral tissue. Research shows a possible link between the irritation caused by oral bacteria and inflammation of the lining of the lungs that limits how much air can pass to and from the respiratory system.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When periodontal disease and respiratory disease exist in the same individual, the dentist and doctor must work together to bring both conditions under control. There are a wide variety of surgical and non-surgical choices available to make this happen, depending on how bad the gum disease is when diagnosed.

The dentist can determine how much inflammation is present, how much tissue loss has occurred and then take appropriate action. A scaling and root planing procedure can clean the pockets of debris from between gums and teeth and make the roots smooth so that gums will seal out bacteria better. Often, antibiotics are put into the pockets once the cleaning is done to ensure good healing and to reduce the likelihood of the infection returning.

No matter which treatments are recommended, treatment is intended to have two benefits. First, discomfort in the mouth is reduced and gums are healthier. Second, there can be a reduction in the number of respiratory infections associated with COPD or other respiratory problems that exists.

If you need answers to your questions about the link between periodontitis and respiratory problems, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS.