The Connection Between Periodontal Disease and Airway Obstruction
Periodontal disease has been linked to several chronic diseases and disorders, thanks to a lot of microbial research in scientific communities. The more that scientist and specialists study the nature of periodontal disease, the more of a connection to other health problems are revealed. However, this is somewhat unsurprising. The state of a tooth has often been an indicator of someone’s condition in ancient civilizations. Even anthropologists use teeth to determine the overall health of specimens that survived throughout millennia. Our teeth speak volumes.
So, what does it say about the way we breathe? Our mouths are the gateway for food, speech, and air. With that in mind, it makes sense that the condition of our mouths can affect the condition of our lungs. Let’s take a look at what dental experts discovered about that connection.
Our Oral Microbiome
Our mouths are host to a lot of bacteria. Just like our guts, there is a whole ecosystem of bacteria in our mouths. According to a 2012 publication on oral diseases, “The oral microbiome rests within biofilms throughout the oral cavity, forming an ecosystem that maintains health when in equilibrium. However, certain ecological shifts in the microbiome allow pathogens to manifest and cause disease.” This means that your tongue, gums, and teeth are a giant ecosystem for microscopic organisms. Most of them are neutral, and some of them are even beneficial. However, there are some that can be outright harmful. When too much harmful bacteria take over that ecosystem, everything in contact with it suffers.
When there is poor oral hygiene, harmful or ‘negative gram’ bacteria has a chance to thrive. These harmful bacteria are “negative gram” bacteria. When we expose our bodies to this type of bacteria, we get an infection. And there are many ways that we can expose our bodies to negative gram bacteria.
Bacteria make up all living things. Without it, people, animals, plants, and insects can’t exist. In fact, most specialists claim that children with developing immune systems need exposure to germs and bacteria. And it isn’t hard to do. From the air we breathe, to the food we eat, and the people we touch we are constantly surrounding ourselves with bacteria. And we should because bacteria carry strands of DNA that make up our genetic code.
But those harmful bacteria can also get easy access to our bodies if we are not careful about what we expose ourselves to. Harmful bacteria lurk in raw chicken, sick people, and overcrowded communities. And when they have a chance to thrive in a place where they can feed and reproduce quickly, they will take that chance.
But what does bad oral hygiene have to do with lung and breathing problems? How does periodontal disease connect with diseases like pneumonia or COPD?
Plaque and Bacteria
The thing about plaque is that it creates a protected environment for a lot of bad bacteria. Residue from foods provide sugars and an undisturbed environment for the bacteria to multiply. Basically, when you are not brushing your teeth, you are giving harmful bacteria a feeding ground to multiply in.
But that plaque does not always stay in place forever, even if you left it undisturbed. All it takes is one deep breath or the passage of food to transport that harmful bacteria to other parts of the body. Either through the respiratory system or the digestive system. And that is with the assumption that the bacteria didn’t even dig its way down into the gumline and enter through the circulatory system.
And dentists are confirming it.
Studies as recent as 2018 point to a correlation between the severity of periodontal disease and the increased likelihood of respiratory issues. There is even evidence of the same negative gram bacteria found in plaque being discovered in the lungs of patients.
The only way to decrease the chances of respiratory infection from harmful bacteria coming from the inside of your mouth, you want to follow a regular oral hygiene routine. If the nature of the periodontal disease is more severe, there is a good chance that your dentist or doctor may prescribe antibiotics. It is not just for the sake of your smile that you need to follow good dental habits. It is also for the sake of your health in ways that are surprising.