Respiratory disease studies have discovered a strong link to periodontitis, or gum disease, and they have found that gum disease in patients can actually make respiratory conditions worse, leading to pneumonia, bronchitis, or emphysema.

This can stun people who underestimate gum disease, which starts as a small bacterial problem in the teeth and gums. However, if left untreated, the bacteria will begin to break down the gums and tissue, leading to pockets in the gums where even more bacteria can grow. The gums and bone will recede leading to tooth loss, and the disease can even get into the jawbone itself. Gum disease can be treated if caught early, but many people will ignore it.

Gum disease has been known to have links with respiratory problems such as COPD, bronchitis, pneumonia, and many others. This is often because the bacteria that is within the gums and teeth of a patient can spread through the body to the lungs, making it very difficult for a patient to fight off if they already have respiratory problems.

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory Disease

Examining The Connection

Some may find it hard to believe that there is such a key link between gum disease and respiratory disease, but four significant factors have demonstrated this over and over again:

  • Bacterial spread. Once bacteria has found a home in your gums, it is very easy for it to spread down to the lungs and not only cause respiratory problems, but also make ones that already exist much worse.
  • Low immunity. Those with persistent or chronic breathing problems will often also have very low immunity, and this means that bacteria in the mouth can move much quicker because it is not being challenged by the body’s immune system, accelerating the progression of the disease.
  • Modifiable factors. Respiratory diseases are often caused by secondary factors such as smoking, which also has a very negative effect on gum disease. The smoking slows down the healing process in the mouth, which means that the bacteria has a much longer time to attack the gums and tissue.
  • Gums and tissue will inflame when they come into contact with the bacteria of gum disease, and there is a direct causal link between the inflammation of tissue in the mouth and the inflammation of tissue in the lungs. It also prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs as efficiently.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When it is clear that a patient is trying to fight off both gum disease and a respiratory disease, their dentist and doctor will need to combine their efforts, and ensure that they are not working against each other through treatments. Depending on when the gum disease is discovered, they will use either non-surgical or surgical methods in order to do this.

When the dentist has understand exactly what stage the gum disease is at, how much tissue has been destroyed and how much bone has been affected, they will carry out a deep clean process to remove as much bacteria as possible from the mouth. Scaling and root planing will not only aid with this, but also make it more difficult for the bacteria to grow back. In some more extreme cases, antibiotics will be placed within the gums so that the bacteria will not be able to return. This deep cleaning process makes it much more likely that the bacteria will not grow back in the gums.

The patient should immediately feel relief in their mouth from the inflammation of their gums, and their mouth will be much healthier. There will also be a reduction in infections in the respiratory system, helping the patient to breathe more easily.

To discuss Gum disease prevention with Dr. Woods, call (619) 640-5100.