Gum Disease and Respiratory Concerns

Our immune system is a powerful, indispensable tool necessary to fight off infection. For a long time, scientists have known that smoking, the aging process, and other health problems that suppress or hinder the immune system place patients at risk for respiratory diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Recent studies point to periodontal disease as an additional potential risk factor for the development of these respiratory diseases.

Bacterial respiratory infections are thought to be acquired through aspiration (inhaling) of fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs. These droplets contain germs that can breed and multiply within the lungs to cause damage. Recent research suggests that bacteria found in the throat and mouth can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract. This can cause infections or worsen existing lung conditions. People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, typically suffer from reduced protective systems, making it difficult to eliminate bacteria from the lungs.

Scientists have found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lung to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease. This discovery leads researchers to believe that these respiratory bacteria can travel from the oral cavity into the lungs to cause infection.