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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

All service was great! My dental technician did an excellent cleaning and I love their computer program that shows your potential cavities. I was able to see for myself whether I had problems or not.

I felt like they did not over-recommend things and were supportive of preventative methods and giving teeth the chance to bounce back with proper hygeine before jumping to "You need a filling". I had some questions, and they had no problem answering them

Elle B. , Arlington VA

10 Stars if Possible!
After the cleaning Dr. Cotes came in and he was great as well. He gave me a full dental exam and even took time to explain the clicking I get in my jaw. He gave me multiple options for teeth whitening and even told me the prices so there would be no up front surprises depending on which method I went with. He took the time to answer any question a threw at him and without trying to rush me out for the next patient. Not really sure what Megan S. is talking about in her review but I did see her only other review on the site was negative as well...just sayin...

Overall:
I would give Dr. Cotes and his staff 10 stars if it was possible. Everyone knows going to the Dentist is a crappy process. I didn't think it was this possible to have a decent time at the Dentist Office and be taken care of in a timely manor!!!

Dustin S. , Arlington VA

Dr. Cote is just that good. I was referred to Dr. Cote by a friend at work, and I am SO thankful for that reference. The man is a consummate professional, has a friendly staff and has provided me with nothing short of stellar care for the last year. He explained things to me that my lifelong dentist never took the time to do before (like, how I can proactively strengthen the enamel on my teeth). He's got hi-tech gear that indicated areas where future problems might crop up and he's kept an eye on them during every return visit. I have never felt empowered and reassured in a dentist's office, but Dr. Cote is that good.

Dentistry can be a very personal enterprise, and since I had the same dentist since birth, finding a new dentist in DC was a harrowing experience. I actually walked out of three dentists offices (too sketchy for my tastes) before settling going to Dr. Cote. I live in the District, but I'm willing to suffer the indignity of Pentagon City just to have Dr. Cote take care of my teeth.

Evan M. , Washington DC

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