Want Healthy Lungs? Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums

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The benefits of having great dental hygiene go beyond your teeth and gums. Researchers now believe your oral health can have an effect on how well your lungs will function.

The Connection Between Oral and Respiratory Health

You might not associate the health of your teeth with the strength of your lungs, but this correlation has been confirmed by a study included in the Journal of Periodontology in January 2011. It revealed that people with periodontal disease are more vulnerable to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and a host of other respiratory ailments and infections than those who have healthy gums and teeth.

The researchers believe that this connection can be traced to the bacterium that builds up in the mouth and throat area when the teeth and gums aren't well maintained. If the bacterium is inhaled into the lower respiratory tract, it can lead to respiratory conditions and complications, and can even cause death in the most severe cases.

To come to these conclusions, scientists looked at 200 people. Half of these participants suffered from severe respiratory ailments and had poorer periodontal status than their counterparts.

What This Means for You

While anyone with poor oral health may be at risk for experiencing related respiratory problems, if you've been diagnosed with asthma, your sensitive airways could make you even more vulnerable to having complications. That's why the best way to protect yourself is to take the following steps to ensure good dental health:

  • Make a commitment to get regular dental exams twice a year (or even more often in some cases). This is an important preventative step to keep your periodontal health at its best.
  • Bring your inhaler and other asthma medications with you to the dentist so she'll know what you're using and how they might affect your oral health. For instance, some medicines cause dry mouth and increase your risk of oral infections, or can interfere with certain dental prescriptions.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.
  • Talk to your dentist about anything else you can do to optimize your oral health.

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"Asthma and Oral Health: A Fact Sheet." Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment. State of Colorado, n.d. Web, 16 Feb. 2011.

"Risk For Pneumonia, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease May Be Reduced By Maintaining Healthy Teeth And Gums." Medical News Today. Medical News Today, 20 Jan. 2010. Web, 13 Feb. 2011.