Respiratory disease can also be referred to as pulmonary disease or lung disorder. These are conditions that affect the lungs and have an impact on breathing. Some forms of respiratory disease may be caused by air pollution or tobacco smoking, while others are the result of infection.

How is respiratory disease connected with gum disease?

We normally think of periodontal disease as a localized infection of the gums and connective tissues in the mouth, but researchers are finding more evidence to link it to respiratory diseases, either playing a possible role in contraction of the illness or in increasing its severity.

Respiratory diseases with links to periodontal disease include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema

Gum disease and pneumonia

Pneumonia is a type of inflammation of the lungs caused by infection by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, though bacterial infections are the most common. The disease results from these infections making it to the lower part of the airway.
In healthy people, the body has defense mechanisms that prevent bacteria from the mouth from being able to reach places far into the lungs, but there are instances where this can be impaired, such as malnutrition, diabetes, or smoking.

In an examination of patients with pneumonia undergoing care in an ICU, it was found that patients who had dental plaque upon their admission to the ICU, or within the first five days of their stay, were 10 times as likely to develop pneumonia as those who plaque-free.

In a two-year study of nursing home patients, one group was given routine toothbrushing by a caregiver as well as weekly professional care for plaque and tartar. At the end of the study, it was found that the group receiving oral care had fewer cases of pneumonia (11% vs 19%) and lower instances of pneumonia-related mortality (8% vs 16%).