Recent research studies have discovered a concerning link between periodontal disease and respiratory disease. Researchers conclude that periodontal disease worsens respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and it could even play a role in contracting pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that arises from bacterial infection. The bacteria in plaque colonize gingival tissue, prompting an inflammatory response that causes the body to destroy gum and bone tissue. This leads to teeth seeming to lengthen as the gums recede with disease progression. Eventually, this erosion of the bone tissue results in a less stable base, causing loosening or shifting of the teeth and tooth loss.

Connections Between Periodontal and Respiratory Disease

Many respiratory diseases have been linked to periodontal disease, including pneumonia, COPD, and bronchitis. Bacterial respiratory infections commonly occur with the inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth into the lungs.

Why These Conditions Are Related

While the link may seem improbable, researchers have amassed an abundance of evidence to support their conclusions, including:

  • Bacterial Spread – Oral bacterium that causes periodontal disease can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract and colonize the lungs, causing pneumonia and the worsening of severe respiratory conditions like COPD.
  • Low Immunity – Those with chronic or persistent respiratory issues also suffer from low immunity, allowing oral bacteria to embed above and below the gum line without resistance from the body’s immune system. This speeds the progression of periodontal disease and increases the risk of developing emphysema, pneumonia, and COPD.
  • Modifiable Factors – Smoking is considered the leading cause of COPD and other chronic respiratory illnesses. Additionally, tobacco damages the gingiva and impacts the health of the oral cavity. It also slows healing, causes enlarged gum pockets, and hastens attachment loss.
  • Inflammation – Periodontal disease causes inflammation and the irritation of oral tissue, possibly due to oral bacteria inflaming the lung lining. This limits the amount of air passing to and from the lungs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When respiratory and periodontal disease are both diagnosed in one individual, it is essential for Dr. Coates and your physician to partner to control both conditions. Depending on the specific condition of the teeth, gums, and jaw, there are many options available, both surgical and non-surgical. Dr. Coates can assess the extent of inflammation and tissue loss and treat bacterial infection quickly.

Non-surgical procedures by Dr. Coates and our dental hygienist include scaling and root plaining, as well as a new therapy called Perio Protect™. Before and after periodontal treatment, our dental team will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance, and will prescribe prescription mouthwashes to deter further bacteria colonization.

Whichever treatment is deemed appropriate, the benefits of controlling periodontal disease are two-fold. First, reduction of oral discomfort and healthier gums. Second, reduced occurrences of respiratory infections associated with COPD and other common respiratory conditions.

Let Us Be a Part of Your Healthcare Team

Proper oral care benefits your overall health and well-being. As researchers have concluded, periodontal disease contributes to respiratory illnesses, which is not to be taken lightly. It’s important to have the best dental professional in your corner and visit them regularly to identify the early signs of periodontal disease.

For more about the connection between periodontal disease and respiratory disease and screening and treatment options, make your appointment with Dr. Coates today. You can also give our Long Beach office a call with any questions or concerns at 562-434-6414.