The Surprising Connection Between Your Mouth and Respiratory Diseases
It may be difficult to realize that there is a connection between something like gum disease and what happens in your lungs. Gum disease is made up of very small bacteria but it can have a powerful and negative influence on your lungs and your body as a whole.
About Gum Disease
Gum disease is caused by certain bacteria (Porphyromonas gingivalis) normally found in your mouth that gets out of control when an imbalance of some kind occurs. In a healthy mouth, the more than 500 other kinds of bacteria will usually keep it under control. Things like a lack of proper oral care, consuming a lot of sugary products, and smoking can produce the imbalance and promote gum disease.
The bacteria irritate the gums because it produces acid whenever you consume sugar or carbs. After a while, you will see inflammation on your gums and they may bleed when you brush or floss them. This is the first stage of gum disease called gingivitis. By brushing twice a day and flossing, you can usually eliminate it at this stage.
How Gum Disease Progresses
If you do not eliminate it soon, it will progress to become periodontitis. Once it has reached this stage, you cannot remove it. You will need to contact a dentist for help and it will continue to get worse.
After it gets into your gums – through the tartar on your teeth, it also has gained access to your bloodstream. Everywhere the bacteria travels, it will trigger an immune response. Along with your platelets, it becomes stuck to the walls of your blood vessels and in your organs. This narrows the vessels, restricting the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your lungs.
How Bacteria Gets Into the Lungs
The harmful bacteria are in your mouth all the time. It is always continuing to multiply, and as it does, it forms plaque on your teeth. Saliva will normally help to wash it off your teeth and gums. As the bacteria become out of balance and there are more of them, they can be inhaled on drops of saliva.
In a healthy person, your lungs can usually defend themselves against invaders from this type of bacteria. In people who are not healthy, or who have a weak immune system, it can cause serious problems. It can make existing problems, such as asthma and COPD worse. It can also cause pneumonia, which could be fatal in someone with a weak immune system.
One recent study involved 200 participants that were between 20 and 60 and had at least 20 natural teeth. Half of them were in a hospital because of respiratory illnesses that included COPD, pneumonia, and bronchitis. The rest of the participants were healthy and did not have any background history of respiratory illness. The study found that the hospitalized group all had worse periodontal disease than the healthy group.
One study conducted at the Yale University School of Medicine discovered that changes in the oral bacteria occurred before pneumonia developed. This connection indicates that there is a possibility that brushing your teeth and flossing more often may be able to reduce the likelihood of getting pneumonia. Knowing this can be very valuable to help protect the health of seniors and young children. It also helps to know that you may be able to ensure their health in a rather simple way.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that currently has no cure. It is presently the third most prevalent cause of death in the United States. It is likely that gum disease is also behind the formation of this disease. When you have this disease, an increase of the harmful bacteria in gum disease can cause flare-ups. If you have periodontal disease and you are in contact with other lung irritants, such as from smoking or smog, it can increase your risk of COPD.
Why Dentures May Be a Problem
If dentures are not cleaned regularly, the harmful bacteria can also build upon them, and then it can be breathed into your lungs. Dentures should be cleaned daily to reduce the bacteria and to keep your breath fresh.
Seniors at Greatest Risk
Seniors living in a nursing home or other close facility such as long-term care institutions are at a greater risk of developing lung problems. This is especially true if oral health is not maintained. Health issues such as pneumonia are also contagious, making this environment a potential health risk.
To get more information about gum disease or periodontal treatment, you can contact Champion Dental clinic office at (214) 747 0763 and book a free consultation.