The Link between Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Diseases

Your mouth is a gateway to your entire body; anything you eat or drink first passes through the oral cavity and then travels to the stomach and other digestive organs. Hence, your oral health status can have a direct influence on your physical health and well-being. Research has shown that poor oral health can increase the risk of developing various medical problems such as heart attack, stroke, premature pregnancy, and even osteoporosis. That’s not all! Several research studies have also highlighted a two-way link between poor oral health and the risk of respiratory diseases. 

How Your Oral Health Affects your Respiratory System?

When oral hygiene maintenance through daily brushing and flossing is neglected, a thin film, called the dental plaque, forms on the surface of teeth. The dental plaque mainly consists of food particles and provides an excellent breeding place for harmful bacteria. As the disease-causing bacteria continue to grow inside the plaque, they can travel through the inhaled air into the lungs and cause various respiratory disorders such as asthma, pleural effusion, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Not just the teeth, but plaque can also form on dental appliances like dentures that are not cleaned regularly and may lead to respiratory infections. 

Under healthy conditions, your body can normally prevent these harmful bacteria from causing any infection. However, in cases when the immunity is already reduced, the bacteria can penetrate the respiratory system. According to The American Thoracic Society, underlying gum disease can also worsen respiratory problems like COPD and asthma. 

Oral Health and Respiratory Diseases; What’s the Link?

Here’s what we know about the link between periodontal health and respiratory diseases:

  • Spread of Bacteria – bacteria that cause respiratory infections are also present in the teeth cavities and dental plaque. These bacteria can easily travel down to the lungs through the inhaled air. 
  • Lowered Immune Response – individuals already suffering from respiratory infections have low body immunity. Research has shown that periodontal disease tends to aggravate these conditions as the body does not have sufficient immunity to fight off these infections. 
  • Inflammation – inflammation in the oral cavity can also lead to inflammation in the respiratory organs.

Both periodontitis and respiratory diseases are preventable. The risk of these respiratory infections can be minimized by eradicating their common causative link – the dental plaque. The American Thoracic Society recommends strict oral hygiene maintenance – to prevent plaque deposition on the teeth – and to ensure optimal oral and respiratory health. Brushing your teeth twice a day followed by flossing at least once a day goes a long way in removing bacterial plaque from your teeth. You should also visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleaning so that you can retain a pearly white smile – and optimal dental and physical health – throughout life. 

Periodontal Disease