Oral health plays an important role in the health of your lungs. In fact, healthy teeth and gums play a crucial role in the overall health of the body. Not only can oral problems make lung disease symptoms worse, treatment for lung disease can also harm your teeth and gums.
There is a link between the mouth and your lungs, and what steps a person can take for optimal overall health.
Bacterial infections cause oral health problems like cavities and gingivitis. Interestingly, you can breathe bacteria directly into your lungs with tiny droplets of saliva. A healthy immune system can help protect most people’s lungs from these bacterial invasions. However, a compromised immune system or damaged lungs may not be able to defend themselves. This places one at risk for conditions like pneumonia or can make existing lung problems worse.
Periodontal disease can also worsen chronic inflammation in lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With these diseases, swelling in the airways contributes to more frequent symptoms and lung damage. The American Thoracic Society states that when your gums are infected and inflamed, they send a signal to your immune system that places the whole body on alert. This can lead to more inflammation in the lungs, more symptoms and, possibly, more lung damage.
Studies show a clear link between gum disease and lung disease:
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found a direct connection between people with asthma and oral infections.
A medicine study out of Baltimore linked the benefits of COPD and dental treatment. The results showed that periodontal treatment could reduce the risk of adverse respiratory events and COPD patients’ mortality.
Lung disease can affect your oral health
The link between lung disease and oral health goes both ways. Treatment for some of the most common lung ailments, such as asthma, COPD and sleep apnea, can affect your oral cavity. Some medications and sleep apnea equipment can cause dry mouth. Saliva helps protect teeth from bacteria and makes you less vulnerable to cavities and gum disease.
Medications used to treat lung diseases, such as inhalants, can also disrupt the bacterial balance in your mouth, causing yeast to grow and spread. This fungal infection is called thrush and causes white patches or red lesions to develop on the tongue, cheeks and throat. These sores may or may not be painful and usually go away in a couple of weeks with antifungal medication.
Bad effects from medications combined with systemic inflammation and challenges in routine oral healthcare put adults with chronic respiratory conditions at higher risk for poor oral health. Patients with asthma or COPD, according to the American Dental Association, have a higher possibility of early tooth loss than those without asthma or COPD.
You can avoid lung problems with good dental health
Maintaining your lung health provides just another incentive for taking care of your teeth and gums. If you’re looking to boost your oral hygiene, start with the habits you can control:
• Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
• Clean in between your teeth daily with interproximal brushes or a floss.
• Schedule regular dental exams and dental hygiene appointments.
Inform your dentist or hygienist about your medical history, such as lung disease and medications taken. Ask your dentist some of the following questions:
• How often should you visit the office based on your lung and oral health?
• How can you manage the adverse effects of your medications such as dry mouth or thrush?
• Would additional care such as fluoride supplements or antibacterial rinses help?
• How can appointments become more comfortable — whether that’s adjusting the chair for easier breathing or using hand signals when you need to cough?
Taking extra care of your mouth is essential when avoiding lung problems. Regular visits with both your dentist and primary care physician will ensure that you can manage issues if they occur. Protect your smile. Taking care of your oral health is an essential component of your overall health and well-being.
• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.