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Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

Periodontal disease (also called periodontitis and gum disease) has been linked to respiratory disease through recent research studies.  Researchers have concluded that periodontal disease can worsen conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may actually play a causal role in the contraction of pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition which generally begins with a bacterial infection.  The bacteria found in plaque begin to colonize in gingival tissue, causing an inflammatory response in which the body destroys both gum and bone tissue.  The sufferer may notice the teeth “lengthening” as the gums recede while the disease progresses.  If left untreated, erosion of the bone tissue brings about a less stable base for the teeth, meaning loose, shifting or complete tooth loss.

There are a number of different respiratory diseases linked to periodontal disease.  Pneumonia, COPD, and bronchitis are among the most common.  Generally, bacterial respiratory infections occur due to the inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth into the lungs. COPD is a leading cause of death and should be taken very seriously.

Reasons for the Connection

The fact that respiratory disease and periodontal disease are linked may seem far-fetched, but there is plenty of evidence to support it.

Here are some of the reasons for the link between periodontal disease and respiratory disease:

  • Bacterial spread – The specific type of oral bacterium that causes periodontal disease can easily be drawn into the lower respiratory tract.  Once the bacteria colonize in the lungs, it can cause pneumonia and exacerbate serious conditions such as COPD.

  • Low immunity – It has been well-documented that most people who experience chronic or persistent respiratory problems suffer from low immunity.  This low immunity allows oral bacteria to embed itself above and below the gum line without being challenged by the body’s immune system.  Not only does this accelerate the progression of periodontal disease, it also puts the sufferer at increased risk of developing emphysema, pneumonia and COPD.

  • Modifiable factors – Smoking is thought to be the leading cause of COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions.  Tobacco use also damages the gingiva and compromises the good health of the oral cavity in its entirety.  Tobacco use slows the healing process, causes gum pockets to grow deeper and also accelerates attachment loss.  Smoking is not the sole cause of periodontal disease, but it is certainly a cofactor to avoid.

  • Inflammation – Periodontal disease causes the inflammation and irritation of oral tissue.  It is possible that the oral bacteria causing the irritation could contribute to inflammation of the lung lining, thus limiting the amount of air that can freely pass to and from the lungs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When respiratory disease and periodontal disease are both diagnosed in one individual, it is important for the dentist and doctor to function as a team to control both conditions.  There are many non-surgical and surgical options available, depending on the specific condition of the teeth, gums and jaw.

The dentist is able to assess the extent of the inflammation and tissue loss and can treat the bacterial infection easily.  Scaling procedures cleanse the pockets of debris and root planing smoothes the tooth root to eliminate any remaining bacteria.  The dentist generally places antibiotics into the pockets after cleaning to promote good healing and reduce the risk of the infection returning.

Whichever treatment is deemed the most suitable, the benefits of controlling periodontal disease are two-fold.  Firstly, any discomfort in the oral region will be reduced and the gums will be much healthier.  Secondly, the frequent, unpleasant respiratory infections associated with COPD and other common respiratory problems will reduce in number.

If you have questions or concerns about respiratory disease or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.

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Dr. K was kind enough to examine my situation and create a mouth night guard for me. The guard really helped to ease the pain of grinding my teeth at night. She helped explain what was happening to my jaw/joints/teeth and was able to create the guard in a few days. Thanks Dr. K and Ana!

Kristina L.

I sought out dental services by Dr. Kasparian after hearing about her through a colleague at work. She came highly recommended. Happy to say that I've been a satisfied patient of hers since January 2012. My oral hygiene wasn't the best that it could've been back when I first started going to Dr. Kasparian. She was very direct in her recommendations and I appreciated her honesty in describing to me the reality of the situation in how I was going to need to improve my oral hygiene. I have taken her consultations seriously and my teeth are the best they've been. She is the type of dentist who makes you want to follow her advice because she knows what she's talking about. I recommend her to anyone who wants superior service for dental hygiene. Also, her staff are always so nice!

Marissa B.

I was referred to Dr. Kasparian through a coworker after avoiding the dentist for well over 3 years (oops). Upon my first appointment with her, I quickly realized how thorough and knowledgeable she was about dentistry and improving the state of my mouth.

Because it had been years since receiving any dental service, my teeth required extensive help. Dr. Kasparian and her staff were wonderful, patient, and friendly throughout the whole experience. I actually enjoyed going to the dentist, knowing that my oral hygiene was in the hands of a dentist with vast experience in the field and who truly had my best interests in mind.

Now that my teeth are at their healthiest they've been in ages, I must highly recommend Dr. Silvia Kasparian to anyone in need of a dentist. She'll make sure your teeth receive all the attention they require and will set you up with an awesome oral hygiene regimen to get your smile looking as beautiful as possible.

Also, once you've completed all of your necessary treatments, you get a free professional grade teeth whitening kit that is legit. I'm telling you... your smile will be looking beautiful once Dr. Kasparian is through with it.

Chelsea M.

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