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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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Testimonials

Dr. Baltazar has been our family dentist for more than 20 years. In all that time, we have received only the absolute best quality care and treatment. His credentials, expertise and reputation are all impeccable.
Whether the treatment plan is simple or complex, he has always taken as much time as necessary to make sure we understand exactly what is to be done and why. We never feel like we're being rushed or being confused by complex technical jargon. One of my fears used to The Needle, but I am still continually amazed by his precise, gentle and deft administration of anesthesia. I actually sort of look forward to it!
His assistants and staff deserve praise, too. Both the front office staff and his technicians are always considerate, cheerful but also knowledgeable. Long-time office manager Cecilia has always been so helpful and friendly to us that we practically regard her as another family member.
Just as we came to Dr. Baltazar's practice by way of an enthusiastic recommendation from a trusted friend, we would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking for the best dentist in town.

Tim Scott and Linda Fetch

Dr. B.~ You have set a high bar of expectations for any dentist who treats me to attempt to reach. I cannot thank you enough for all of the outstanding care you have provided to me over these last few years. May the Lord bless you in the next 30 (or however many) years of your practice! With fond gratitude,

Margaret Lowing

You'll not find a more caring, personal dentist around! I've been going to him for over 10 years. My two young daughters even requested to go to him OVER their previous childhood dentist (who had video games and movies playing at all times) which says alot! Dr. Baltazar is a dentist you can trust with yourself and your family!

Christineh

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