Several recent studies provide evidence that the oral cavity may influence the initiation and/or the progression of lung diseases such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studies have shown that poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease may foster colonization of the oropharyngeal region by respiratory pathogens, particularly in hospital or nursing home patients. If aspirated, these pathogens can cause pneumonia.
One study included 200 participants between the ages of 20 and 60 with at least 20 natural teeth. Half of the participants were hospitalized patients with a respiratory disease such as pneumonia, COPD, or acute bronchitis, and the other half were healthy control subjects with no history of respiratory disease. Each participant underwent a comprehensive oral evaluation to measure periodontal health status.
The study found that patients with respiratory diseases had worse periodontal health than the control group, suggesting a relationship between respiratory disease and periodontal disease. Researchers suspect that the presence of oral pathogens associated with periodontal disease may increase a patient’s risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory disease. However, the study authors note that additional studies are needed to more conclusively understand this link.
Pneumonia is one of the most common respiratory infections, especially in long-term care facilities. However, the state of oral cleanliness in such patients tends to be poor, and despite the existence of guidelines, nursing care practices may be inadequate and not reflective of recent advances in knowledge. Interventions must be provided to improve oral hygiene and reduce the rate of pneumonia in high-risk populations. The importance of routine oral care is imperative in helping prevent periodontal disease. Brushing, flossing and routine check-ups with your hygienist are the best preventative care for periodontitis along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle.Read more about the study and how Healthy Gums May Lead to Healthy Lungs at Perio.org