Good Gums Mean Good Lungs

Good gum health could protect against lung disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having healthy gums may prevent serious and potentially fatal respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

The World Health Organization ranks chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the top five single causes of death worldwide, right along with HIV/AIDS. Pneumonia, in which the lungs can become infected and filled with fluid, kills over 52,000 people every year.

A recent study suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of lung disease when bacteria from the upper throat make their way down to the lungs. 200 individuals were enrolled in the study, with half of them hospitalized for a respiratory disorder like pneumonia, COPD or acute bronchitis. The other half were healthy people with no history of breathing complications. They were submitted to an oral periodontal (gum) evaluation.

Patients with respiratory problems had worse gum health overall, which the authors attributed to "oral pathogens" forming first in the gums then being inhaled into the lower respiratory tract and lungs.

Periodontal disease is a chronic disease of the gums that has effects on many different parts of the body. Previous studies have connected poor gum health to diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Its influence on the development of respiratory diseases is a subject that still needs further analysis.

Dr. Donald S. Clem, DDS, the President of the American Academy of Periodontology says annual dental checkups and good gum maintenance can "prevent or diminish the progression of harmful diseases."

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Review Date: 
January 19, 2011
Last Updated:
January 20, 2011