What’s in your mouth may affect how well your lungs work, suggests a new study published in the Journal of Periodontology. Researchers have found a link between gum disease and serious respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
“We found that people with worse periodontal disease had less lung function than people with good oral health,” says study author Frank Scannapieco, DMD, PhD, an associate professor of oral biology at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. “So it’s possible that people with periodontal disease and chronic lung disease might find their lung disease perhaps worse than if they did not have periodontal disease.”
Researchers looked at nearly 14,000 participants from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey, otherwise known as NHANES III. The participants were at least 20 years old and had at least six of their own teeth.
Each person underwent a lung, dental, and periodontal exam. Questionnaires were also given out to determine history of respiratory illness. In analyzing the data, investigators found a link between poor gum health and reduced lung performance.
“It could be that bacteria in the mouth somehow travel into the lower airway and contribute to the inflammatory process that is involved into the progression of chronic lung disease,” says Scannapieco. “It’s also possible that inflammatory mediators in the saliva may somehow play a role in the process.”
Experts say the finding adds to previous research that shows a connection between overall body wellness.
There is a “growing body of evidence that periodontal disease is much more than just a dental problem–that it can affect other, more far-reaching areas of the body,” says Michael McGuire, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. He cites prior studies that have found that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease, more likely to have low-birthweight babies if they’re diabetic, to have greater difficulty controlling their blood sugar level.
Although some studies challenge the connection between mouth and body health, McGuire says the facts remain. “Periodontal disease is a very preventable disease, and it is a major cause of major tooth loss around the world, particularly in the United States,” he says. “And if you want to say something for sure, that’s it.”
McGuire also adds that smoking is the number one risk factor for both periodontal and chronic lung diseases. Stopping the addictive habit, he suggests, could help promote good health.
When asked whether bacteria in the mouth could somehow play a role in other respiratory diseases such as asthma, McGuire says no research has looked into the relationship so far, but “it’s certainly a possibility.”
Article By: Dulce Zamora