The Bacteria From Your Mouth Can Affect Your Lungs
These inflammatory conditions of the mouth are caused by poor oral health habits and a lack of routine oral care.
Being an inflammatory disorder, these oral health issues are associated with other serious and systemic health conditions affecting other parts of the body.
What Are Respiratory Conditions?
Common respiratory conditions include asthma, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (which is also known as COPD). These conditions affect a person’s airways and structures of the lung, causing difficulty breathing or breathlessness, wheezing, decreased airflow, or a build-up of fluid. These conditions can lead to hospitalization and in some cases, can even be life threatening.
The risk factors for asthma and COPD include tobacco smoke, air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and a history of frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood. Asthma is the third most common chronic disease among Canadians, with over 3.8 million people suffering from the condition. And, asthma and COPD are comorbid, meaning can be present together in the same person. For example, in Saskatchewan, COPD is 4.2 times higher among those who also have asthma.
Pneumonia is an acute infection caused by a virus or bacteria, which can be caused by weak immune function or being elderly or very young. Pneumonia has the same environmental risk factors to asthma and COPD, like smoke and pollutants. Pneumonia was the tenth leading cause of death in Saskatchewan in 2019.
The Connection Between Your Lungs and Oral Health
Respiratory and periodontal diseases are among the most common diseases of people around the world—and a link between the two has been identified. Studies indicate that respiratory conditions and diseases affecting the lungs and airways can be affected by both the infection and inflammatory processes of periodontal disease.
The bacteria present in an unhealthy mouth can be inhaled into the lower airway. Breathing in the bacteria of the diseased gums spreads proinflammatory particles, which increases the inflammatory burden on the lungs, making respiratory conditions worse and diminishing airflow. This then kicks off a cycle that stimulates the liver to produce specific proteins in response. These proteins have a systemic effect—meaning they affect the whole body, including increasing the inflammatory response of the lungs.
Not surprisingly, research shows that among people with respiratory conditions, good oral health and regular dental care can lower the risk of bad health outcomes.
Reducing Your Risk
Recent evidence shows that bacteria originating from the oral cavity can cause pneumonia and may contribute to worsening of COPD. Reduction in dental plaque through treatment by a dentist appears to reduce this risk.
Additionally, other studies have shown that not only are outcomes for people living with asthma and COPD better in those receiving dental treatment, serious outcomes like death are also significantly lower in those receiving dental treatment compared to those not receiving treatment.
What Can You Do?
It’s time to take your oral health seriously. If you currently live with a respiratory condition, and even if you don’t, the research shows that poor oral health has important implications for your health.
Regular brushing and flossing and regular visits to the dentist will ensure you are as healthy as you can be. Just like eating well or being active, good oral health habits are key to your overall wellbeing.
Find a Saskatchewan Dentist
All dentists are required to be licensed by meeting specific requirements and training and it is often a matter of taking the time to find the best “fit” for you. A phone call to the office or a visit to the dentist’s website may provide help with regard to language options, location, accessibility, insurance and payment options, hours of operation, recall programs, and more.
Find a dentist
Choosing a dentist can be a daunting task. The best resources when choosing a new dentist are your friends, relatives or work colleagues who may be able to make recommendations. Other health professionals, such as your doctor or pharmacist, may also be able to make recommendations. Remember, all dentists are required to be licensed by meeting specific requirements and training and it is often a matter of taking the time to find the best “fit” for you. A phone call to the office or a visit to the dentists website may provide help with regard to language options, location, accessibility, insurance and payment options, hours of operation, recall programs, etc. If your general dentist is unable to provide some of the services that you require, he or she may refer you to a general dentist colleague or a specialist.
When choosing a dentist you may wish to consider if the practice offers the services you are looking for. A general dentist’s service may include:
- Routine checkups, fillings and teeth cleaning
- Prosthodontics (Crowns, bridges, dentures)
- Endodontics (‘Root canal’) treatments
- Oral surgery (‘Extractions’, etc.)
- Periodontal (Gum) treatment
- Orthodontics (‘Straightening of teeth’)
- Pediatric (‘Children’s’) dentistry services