Taking care of your gums may also help to keep your lungs healthy, a research suggests.
The new study says that periodontal disease may increase the risk for respiratory infections, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. These infections, which are caused when bacteria from the upper throat are inhaled into the lower respiratory tract, can be severely debilitating and are one of the leading causes of death.
The 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.
"Pulmonary diseases can be severely disabling and debilitating," said Donald S. Clem, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology.
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and other structures supporting the teeth.
The research has been published in the Journal of Periodontology.