Practicing good oral hygiene not only helps maintain a healthy smile but can also prevent oral diseases and dental problems from occurring. What is not commonly known is that since each tooth is connected to a certain part of the body through the nervous and circulatory system, poor oral health can end up negatively affecting other parts of the body. Over the years, research has shown that people who do not practice routine dental care increase their risk of developing respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis, and pneumonia among many others.
Poor Oral Hygiene
As we inhale, bacteria travels into our mouth in tiny droplets of saliva. Our mouth contains both good and bad bacteria, and it is up to us to maintain a balance between the two. When we let the bad bacteria spiral out of control, we are allowing the excess bacteria to make their way to the lungs causing that tissue to become irritated. This bacteria also causes tooth decay, inflamed, and bleeding gums to persist in the mouth, amongst many other dental problems.
When you enforce good dental practices like brushing twice a day and flossing daily, you help remove plaque from in between the teeth, forcing germs to make an exit before they enter the lungs. Once the bacteria makes its way from the upper throat to the lower respiratory tract, those with healthy lungs will be able to defend themselves against this bacterial invasion. However, for those with existing dental problems and respiratory conditions, both oral health and overall health can worsen quickly.
Periodontal disease is a chronic condition that begins with a bacterial infection and if left untreated, can cause inflammation of the gums and loss of bone around the teeth. Once the oral bacteria begin to irritate the lung lining, it inhibits the amount of air that can freely pass to and from the lungs. This increases an individual’s risk of contracting respiratory-related diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or emphysema. According to research, gum disease is also known to worsen inflammation in individuals with existing lung diseases such as asthma and COPD.
Tobacco users are more likely to produce bacterial plaque which has a propensity to lead to gum disease. Furthermore, due to a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, the body is unable to fight the bacteria targeting the infected gums that can cause further dental plaque to grow and eventually lead to tooth loss. This, in turn, increases the risk of not only developing respiratory illnesses but forces existing ones to deteriorate further.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In most healthy cases, following good dental hygiene, maintaining a well-balanced diet, and visiting the dentist at least twice a year will help prevent any respiratory issues linked to your oral health from occurring.
If you are already diagnosed with respiratory disease, however, you need to be even more vigilant about any tooth decay and plaque build-up in your mouth so you can prevent further inflammation of the airways. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing fluoride or antibacterial agent to carefully remove any plaque from around each tooth. This is because bacterial plaque builds up again just a few hours after removal and can eventually lead to tartar formation if not intercepted at regular intervals of time. Be sure to repeat the process after every meal and in-between snacks.
Remember not to scrub your teeth too hard. Instead, gently massage the groove between the tooth and gums in a circular motion to prevent any damage to the supporting structures and bone. Replace your brush every three to four months to keep mold or bacteria from growing on it. Follow up each brushing session by flossing, which can scrape off any excess plaque from difficult to reach places like the sides of your teeth.
People who follow good oral hygiene are able to protect their respiratory system by dissuading excess bacterial growth. Healthy teeth and gums play a pivotal role in preventing new respiratory illnesses from occurring and in better managing the ones that already exist.