How Oral Health Problems Can Affect Your Lungs

Health & FitnessCancer / Illness

  • Author Talon Davis
  • Published August 26, 2022
  • Word count 514

Oral health is much more important than many people realize. Conditions like gum disease don’t just put the teeth at risk; they’re also linked to a variety of health problems. It’s no exaggeration to say that protecting your smile is an important step in protecting the rest of your body.

In particular, there’s a clear link between poor oral health and respiratory diseases. According to a study organized by the European Federation of Periodontology, gum disease is linked with diminished lung function, with the decline becoming more pronounced as gum disease grows more severe. As such, taking care of your mouth – particularly your gums – could help you maintain healthy lungs as well.

How is Oral Health Connected to Lung Health?

Gum disease is caused by harmful oral bacteria accumulating in your mouth. These bacteria can very easily travel to your lungs if you inadvertently inhale them. They can also reach the lungs – and other parts of your body – if they enter your bloodstream through the blood vessels in your gums.

Of course, it’s natural to breathe in germs on a regular basis, and the immune system can usually fight off any harmful organisms that enter your lungs. But if you’re already suffering from gum disease or other oral health issues, your already taxed immune system may have a harder time dealing with problems in other parts of the body – hence why more severe cases of gum disease are more closely linked to respiratory disease.

What Kind of Lung Conditions Can Oral Bacteria Cause?

If oral bacteria end up infecting the airways in the lungs, they can cause bronchitis, which is usually accompanied by coughing, mucus, and fatigue. But in more serious cases, they could also lead to pneumonia, which is when an infection has inflamed the air sacs in one or both lungs. Some pneumonia is mild, but it can also be life-threatening if the infection is severe enough.

Oral bacteria can also make existing lung problems worse. For example, emphysema – a condition where damage to the air sacs causes shortness of breath – is usually a result of using tobacco or marijuana. If bacteria get in the lungs, they can make people who already have emphysema even sicker.

What Can Be Done to Protect the Mouth and Lungs?

Keeping your oral bacteria under control will help keep your lungs – and the rest of your body – safe from the problems they can cause. Fortunately, maintaining good oral health isn’t complicated; there are a few simple steps you can take to maintain healthy gums, such as:

• Brushing at least two times every day with fluoride toothpaste.

• Flossing at least once a day.

• Visiting your dentist for regular cleanings.

• Avoiding tobacco products altogether.

• Using a therapeutic mouthwash with antibacterial properties.

As soon as you notice symptoms of gum disease, call your dentist. The condition will be much easier to manage if it’s treated in its early stages. Be proactive, and you should be able to avoid the worst effects of gum disease and prevent bacteria from causing damage elsewhere.

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