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The Connection Between Gum Disease and Respiratory Illness

Posted on 10/13/2016 by Leslie Davis
A close up of a patients teeth suffering from gum disease.
Recent research has made a profound connection between gum disease and certain respiratory conditions, providing additional evidence that properly caring for your teeth is necessary for whole body health.

Gum disease is a progressive disorder that generally starts with a bacterial infection, and when the bacteria found within plaque begin to breed in the gingival tissue, the body will develop an inflammatory response that can destroy bone and gum disease.

If you have gum disease, you may not even know it right away. In its earliest form gum disease is known as gingivitis, and this phase can have minimal symptoms. If caught early, this type of gum disease can even be reversed, but if it is allowed to progress, you may notice that your teeth begin to lengthen as your gums start to recede.

If left untreated, bone tissue erosion can make the teeth unstable, meaning that they will shift and loosen before the tooth is lost.

Now, medical researchers are concluding that gum disease can actually cause certain respiratory conditions to worsen, such as COPD. It is also believed that gum disease could play a more casual role in the contraction of bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia.

How Might Gum Disease and Respiratory Ailments Be Connected?

Evidence is pointing to a link between gum disease and respiratory issues, and there are a few underlying connections that are thought to link the ailments:

Low Immunity May Cause Gum Disease

People who suffer from persistent or chronic respiratory illnesses usually have a suppressed immune system. When immunity has been diminished, the bacteria that are found beneath the gums will be allowed to multiply because it isn't being battled by the immune system. Not only can this speed up the development of gum disease, but it can also increase your risk of contracting COPD, pneumonia, and emphysema.

Inflammation Caused by Gum Disease

Gum disease can cause inflammation and irritation that may also aggravate the lungs. When inflammation is found in the mouth, it can contribute to inflammation of the lung lining. This can restrict the amount of air that may be transmitted freely to and from the lungs.

Gum Disease is caused by Bacteria

Gum disease is caused by the bacteria of the mouth, and unfortunately, it is easy for these bacteria to transfer to the respiratory tract just through normal breathing. Once the bacteria is given the opportunity to settle in the lungs, it can colonize, which could result in pneumonia. This condition could also worsen and turn into more serious respiratory conditions such as emphysema or COPD.

Modifiable Factors, Lung, and Gum Health

Smoking is thought to be the primary cause of COPD and related respiratory illnesses, and it can also be a major cause of gum damage and worsening oral health. Smokers will experience prolonged healing times, but the separation of the teeth, bone, and gums will be accelerated. Smoking isn't a primary cause of gum disease, but it is a risk factor that should be avoided.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Gum Disease?

Since gum disease can lead to other troubling health concerns, it is important to take precautions to prevent gum disease before it starts.

Controlling the buildup of plaque is a must when it comes to fending off gum disease, so be sure that you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and get in between the teeth with dental floss. You should also use an antiseptic mouth rinse twice per day to keep bacteria levels under control.

Regular dental checkups are also essential in the fight against gum disease. If it has been a while since your last appointment, contact us today to schedule a checkup.




Dr. Leslie Davis
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