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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Healthy Gums May Lead to Healthy Lungs

Published January 18, 2011 3:23 PM by Valerie Newitt

Tell modern consumers that whiter teeth will make them sexier and more attractive, and they'll support an entire merchandising line of whitening mouthwashes, toothpastes, stick-on strips, oral bleaching goo and more.

But here's a more important reason for the masses to brush, floss and keep teeth and gums healthy: It could contribute to a healthier respiratory system. And nothing's more appealing than that.

According to research published in the Journal of Periodontology and released via PRNewswire, a new study suggests periodontal disease may increase the risk for respiratory infections, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.

Some 200 participants between the ages of 20 and 60 with at least 20 natural teeth participated in the study. Half were hospitalized with a respiratory disease such as pneumonia, COPD, or acute bronchitis. The other half were healthy control subjects with no history of respiratory disease. Each participant was evaluated to measure periodontal health and/or disease.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and other structures supporting the teeth. Previous research has associated gum disease with other chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The study found that patients with respiratory diseases had worse periodontal health than the control group, suggesting a relationship between respiratory disease and periodontal disease.

Researchers suspect that the presence of oral pathogens associated with periodontal disease may increase a patient's risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory disease. However, the study authors note that additional studies are needed to more conclusively understand this link.



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