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Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

Periodontal disease (also called periodontitis and gum disease) has been linked to respiratory disease through recent research studies.  Researchers have concluded that periodontal disease can worsen conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may actually play a causal role in the contraction of pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition which generally begins with a bacterial infection.  The bacteria found in plaque begin to colonize in gingival tissue, causing an inflammatory response in which the body destroys both gum and bone tissue.  The sufferer may notice the teeth “lengthening” as the gums recede while the disease progresses.  If left untreated, erosion of the bone tissue brings about a less stable base for the teeth, meaning loose, shifting or complete tooth loss.

There are a number of different respiratory diseases linked to periodontal disease.  Pneumonia, COPD, and bronchitis are among the most common.  Generally, bacterial respiratory infections occur due to the inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth into the lungs. COPD is a leading cause of death and should be taken very seriously.

Reasons for the Connection

The fact that respiratory disease and periodontal disease are linked may seem far-fetched, but there is plenty of evidence to support it.

Here are some of the reasons for the link between periodontal disease and respiratory disease:

  • Bacterial spread – The specific type of oral bacterium that causes periodontal disease can easily be drawn into the lower respiratory tract.  Once the bacteria colonize in the lungs, it can cause pneumonia and exacerbate serious conditions such as COPD.

  • Low immunity – It has been well-documented that most people who experience chronic or persistent respiratory problems suffer from low immunity.  This low immunity allows oral bacteria to embed itself above and below the gum line without being challenged by the body’s immune system.  Not only does this accelerate the progression of periodontal disease, it also puts the sufferer at increased risk of developing emphysema, pneumonia and COPD.

  • Modifiable factors – Smoking is thought to be the leading cause of COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions.  Tobacco use also damages the gingiva and compromises the good health of the oral cavity in its entirety.  Tobacco use slows the healing process, causes gum pockets to grow deeper and also accelerates attachment loss.  Smoking is not the sole cause of periodontal disease, but it is certainly a cofactor to avoid.

  • Inflammation – Periodontal disease causes the inflammation and irritation of oral tissue.  It is possible that the oral bacteria causing the irritation could contribute to inflammation of the lung lining, thus limiting the amount of air that can freely pass to and from the lungs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When respiratory disease and periodontal disease are both diagnosed in one individual, it is important for the dentist and doctor to function as a team to control both conditions.  There are many non-surgical and surgical options available, depending on the specific condition of the teeth, gums and jaw.

The dentist is able to assess the extent of the inflammation and tissue loss and can treat the bacterial infection easily.  Scaling procedures cleanse the pockets of debris and root planing smoothes the tooth root to eliminate any remaining bacteria.  The dentist generally places antibiotics into the pockets after cleaning to promote good healing and reduce the risk of the infection returning.

Whichever treatment is deemed the most suitable, the benefits of controlling periodontal disease are two-fold.  Firstly, any discomfort in the oral region will be reduced and the gums will be much healthier.  Secondly, the frequent, unpleasant respiratory infections associated with COPD and other common respiratory problems will reduce in number.

If you have questions or concerns about respiratory disease or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

My mother is in a nursing home in Harrisville Michigan. She dropped her dentures and broke a tooth. The entire staff was in her room trying to find the broken tooth, but it must have fallen into the heat register or something. Anyway it never turned up. My brother, Rick, went to visit and called to tell me about it. "We have to do something," he told me. "I can't stand to see mom looking like this." He was planning to take a few days off and take me up north to see about getting her to the dentist to get her plate fixed. I went online and called several dentists in the area. They could not help me with the problem. Then I found Dr. Gregg Resnick DDS in Alpena. He said he could fix them and have them ready by the next day. I had our friends, Shirley and Tom Harmon, pick up the plate and take it to his office. The doctor called me (I live over 200 miles from where my mom is). Dr. Resnick was concerned that he might not be able to grind the tooth properly and that my mom wouldn't be able to chew properly. You see he was under the impression she had a full set of dentures and didn't realize that she had some lower teeth. He told me that although the tooth was broken mom would not have a problem chewing with it that way. "But, we do have a problem," I told him. "My brother can't stand to look at her with that broken tooth." He sighed and said, "Let's do it then." I could have hugged him through the phone. I promised him that if mom had a problem chewing that I would bring her handicap van and get her to his office the next day. Well, mom got her plate today. She ate dinner and said that she could chew just fine. I have Dr. Resnick to thank for this. He did me a favor and it worked out just fine. I wish there were more dentists like him. He and his staff gave me 5 star service.

Sandra C.

My name is Brad Boehm. I am a local physician in Alpena, Michigan. I had an erosion problem with my teeth that made them appear yellow and deformed. I went to see a cosmetic dentist in Atlanta, Georgia. The repair work to my teeth including veneers was over $70,000. I came home very depressed. While at a routine cleaning I discussed this with Dr. Gregg Resnick, my new dentist. He formulated a treatment plan that was identical to the plan from Georgia at less than one-third the cost. I am sure the cost in Georgia included partial rent payment for the mansion the clinic was located in.

I chose to have my teeth fixed by Dr Resnick and I truly could not be happier! During the treatment process minor adjustments were made. This required a quick end of the day visit to see Dr. Resnick instead of a day or two wasted flying to Atlanta. My family and friends comment all the time about my teeth and how I smile so much more. I would recommend Dr. Resnick to anyone who wishes to improve their smile.

Dr. Boehm

I first met Dr. Resnick 20 years ago when referred by a friend for emergency care. Now Nancy and I are thankful he has been our dentist ever since. We think of our appointments as going to an office where we will be treated as friends, not only by him, but also by the staff.

Dr. Resnick is always calm, patient, encouraging and knowledgeable in dental care. His staff reflects his demeanor. Furthermore, he is an interesting guy.

He is always interested in patients as individuals outside of the office. I remember telling him of impending surgery and later he called me at home to encourage and wish me well.

We recommend him to all our friends.

Robert and Nancy Sloan

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