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.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

I've had the privilege of going to Dr. Howard since young (decades). Now my entire family has chosen Dr. Howard and Dr. Alan Igasaki as our dentists. Both are calm, soothing, gentle and amazing dentists. Dr. Alan also specializes in periodontics which helped the extensive gum work we had to do over the years. The entire staff is super friendly and fun. There wasn't one visit I didn't leave laughing or encouraged by some one on the staff.

The doctors work well together and often seek each other's opinion. I appreciate that they're always educating themselves and using the latest technology. Dr. Alan used the laser on my son's gum procedure with no bleeding and minimal pain. They also allow you to bring your own music in and can play movies on a special eyeglass video screen. We often didn't want to leave since the "movie wasn't over." I get pretty anxious with any dental work. I watched a relaxing movie about Hawaii and the ocean. Both doctors are soothing and often talk to you a long time previous to treatment. It helps a lot. They're gentle also and will ask you for feedback if there's pain or discomfort. Very empathetic doctors as well as being brilliant clinically is rare. Highly recommended!!!

M D.

I cannot believe I am giving ANY dentist that I have personally seen any stars. But I must say Dr. Howard Igaskai, deserves every single one of them. I am not an easy person to get into a dental office let alone a dental chair! My fear of dentist started as a child & never went away. Dr. Howard aka Papa Howard, knew of my anxiety & went as far as unbuttoning his top collar & removing his coat just to make me feel at ease. I honestly have major trust issues w/dentist. I have horrible teeth due to the lack of dental care. I need a lot of work & it took a lot for me to even make this appointment. With that being said Dr. Howard took his time to explain & examine everything. I have to admit I didn't trust him from the get go & had a stink face but as the appointment went on he made me feel comfortable enough to make me want to return to his office. Yes, you read that right. I will go BACK....WILLINGLY! I'm still afraid & nervous as heck but from the front desk ladies, to the dental assistants & Dr. Howard....thank you! Thank you for NOT giving up on me. Thank you for making me feel comfortable enough to want to return. I'll see you again (still anxious) but I will be there.

Diana A.

I am SO honored to be able to rate and provide information on my dentist's office. In a world where people freak out about seeing the dentist, I LOVE mine! The front staff is great (very welcoming and informative), Elsie is my favorite hygienist (very inviting and great to talk to - even with tools in your mouth!), and Dr. Howard is da bomb! This is the one doctor I see religiously!

My parents were smart in taking me with them to the dentist (they are patients here, as well) when I was very young. I don't recall what age I was when Dr. Howard first started treating me, but I don't ever recall not knowing or feeling comfortable with him. And, now that I'm old, he still asks about my migraines, my family, and is just very pleasant to speak with any time I do.

I wanted to whiten my teeth and he told me no - that mine are naturally bright. He could have done it anyway, but that's just one way he is always looking out for me.

God willing, I will NEVER not have the wonderful folks here as my dental professionals! I always get compliments on my teeth!

Anika C.

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Contact Us.We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form.

Contact Us

We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.
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