Dental health and oral hygiene can have unfathomable effects on multiple organs and systems in our body. It can also play an important role in accelerating lung diseases. Our mouths have bacteria in them, and the harmful ones can travel to many other organs, including our lungs to cause bacterial infection. Lungs and teeth are way more intricately connected than one can imagine. Certain medications for lung diseases too can negatively affect the teeth and gum health. These medicines are known to strain the enamel and even loss of teeth, including increasing the risk of dental infections.
How are Oral Health and Overall Health Connected?
There is a direct and transparent link between poor dental hygiene and respiratory diseases and infections. Gum infections, diseases and cavities are a clear sign of bad oral health. These issues can aggravate lung infections and even cause new ones, leading to higher risk of pneumonia and emphysema.
What is Oral Bacteria?
About 700 different types and species of bacteria exists in our mouth and create a balance to maintain healthy conditions. If the balance gets disrupted, the growth of the bacteria gets out of hand. They can create gum ailments, teeth problems and other correlated problems. By not taking oral care seriously, or not paying heed to untreated plaque and tartar you are only putting your other body parts in danger, and susceptible to other serious infections including cardiovascular and respiratory organs.
How can dental problems affect lung diseases?
Dental cavities and gum infection (gingivitis) are caused by the germs and bacteria that reside in our mouth. Our gums and teeth act as store houses for these germs and bacteria which can travel further down to other different organs. These germs and bacteria live in the dental plaque, a layer that gets formed on the teeth. And bacteria, by nature are mean to multiply. Formation plaque can be checked if you brush your teeth regularly twice a day and floss it every day. Some bacteria often can get inhaled into lungs on tiny droplets of saliva. Healthy lungs have their own developed defense mechanisms to control those invasions, unlike unhealthy lungs. Unhealthy lungs by virtue of not having a strong defense mechanism, fails to control these invasions, and thus get infected. These bacteria are also capable of further worsening the conditions of an already damaged and unhealthy pair of lungs. Gum infections can also worsen the chronic inflammation in lung diseases as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Inflamed airways is also one of the factor that enhances the symptoms of lung diseases. A diseased or inflamed gum sends out distressed signals to different parts of the body to draw attention. This signaling system also includes inflaming of the lungs.
Breathing in Harmful Bacteria
By the international Journal of Molecular Sciences, there are two ways in which that oral bacteria can reach other systems in our bodies. We breathe or inhale the bacteria into our lungs. Again, by the University of Missouri, the saliva droplets which are fairly capable of holding germs and bacteria, can travel from one person to another, as and when we breathe.
We inhale germs every time we respire or breathe. There is nothing unnatural about it. Our immune system has been specifically designed to mitigate the effects a bacterial invasion or anything that might cause serious health issues- inflammation or otherwise.
Germs that live in our mouth can grow rapidly an even trickle down into our respiratory organs during our sleeping hours. These germs are dangerous and are capable of primarily causing pneumonia. The biofilm get cleaned off through regular brushing, can therefore prevent the pneumonia causing germs from spreading.
Oral Bacteria in the Blood
Bacteria can also enter our bodies through the blood stream. Gum tissues get broken down by gum diseases, which leaves the gums susceptible to more bacteria invasion. It is through these infected gums that make the pathway for the disease causing bacteria to invade, causing inflation and other issues.
Can Your Dentures be a Problem ?
Dentures might be one of the problems, in a scenario like this. This is mostly because, dentures need regular cleaning- they have to be taken off and soaked every day in a cleaning solution before going off to bed. If not, bacteria will start to grow and might get inhaled into the lungs and other parts of the body. Dentures, as good and well-built as they might be, are not your natural teeth. So there is obviously a more chance of choking on your own food, if you don’t chew it well. Food might also get into your respiratory tracks and cause serious problems.
Can medications or treatments used for lung problems cause problems for your teeth?
As mentioned previously, certain medications for lungs might cause dental damage. Some of the inhaled inflammatory and bronchodilator can lead to conditions like “dry-mouth”. Saliva has a protective function inside our mouth. Thus, dry mouth can significantly increase the risk of getting cavities, decay and other gum disease. Chewing on sugar-free gums or sucking on sugar-free candy can help your mot produce more saliva.
Artificial saliva products can also be used to enhance the production of saliva inside the mouth. Oxygen, PAP or Positive Airway Pressure therapy, and other therapies that are non-humidified might also cause your mouth to dry up.
On the other hand, using a humidifier to add moisture to oxygen, CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure and bi-PAP or bilevel positive airway pressure devices might be beneficial in these situations.
Oral candidiasis, popularly known as thrush is an infection caused by yeast (fungus). This is caused by certain inhaled medications like corticosteroids. We already have multiple kinds of microbes living in our mouth or normal flora.
Yeasts like Candidia can normally live in our mouths, but are controlled by other mouth flora aided by a healthy immune system. Medicines can even sometimes disrupt the normal balance, causing the fungus (yeast) to grow and lead to infections. Development of white patches on the cheeks, tongue and thrush on the throat. These patches are not usually painful. But extreme disruption of balance can cause them to become sore, bleed and cause an uncomfortably burning sensation.
Infections like thrush can be treated with anti-fungal drugs such as nystatin. There are multiple ways to reduce the risk of thrush formation. You can use an inhaler with a spacer. That will send more medicine into the lungs and less inside your mouth, specifically. You might want to gargle or at least rinse your mouth thoroughly after you’ve used an inhaler. However, brushing your teeth the best possible solution to this.
How can I avoid lung problems from dental or gum disease?
Maintaining an oral hygiene routine on a daily basis can benefit your lungs and your teeth. You need to control the bacteria on your teeth and gums before they can spread and infect the lungs.
Gum diseases and cavities can be prevented by removing the plaque with a detailed oral hygiene routine. Consistency is the key, because bacterial plaque begins to re-build within a few hours after being cleaned.
A toothbrush with soft bristles can clean out plaque from three surfaces of each tooth—the outside, biting, and inside surfaces.
Dental floss or a floss substitute, is needed to scrape off plaque off the two side surfaces. The sides of teeth are where cavities and gum infections can practically be catastrophic.
Scraping off plaque before going to bed is important since a “dry mouth” is an ideal situation for the decay causing bacteria during sleep.
You are required to brush gently and thoroughly along the gum line of teeth to clean off the plaque, with a soft bristles brush. This plaque is evasive in nature because they exist in the groves between the gum and the teeth. It get deeper and are completely capable of destroying not only your gums but also the supporting bones. If the bones starts to erode, the corresponding tooth will start to wobble and eventually come out. This is what we identify as a periodontal disease.
A sandy or gritty deposit that starts to form when the soft plaque isn’t cleaned properly, is called tartar. It is a sign of inconsistent and poor oral health. Tartar is known to cause gum inflammation and irritate them. Tartar, unlike plaque, cannot be taken out with just brushing and flossing. It needs professional attention. It needs to be taken care (scrapped off) by a dentist or a dental care professional. And if the tartar keeping recurring, you are going to have to have visit the dentist at regular intervals to get it cleaned. Tartar mostly develops on the hidden corners of the mouth like the back side of the teeth. You are going to have to pay special attention to these locations while brushing and flossing.
Toothpaste containing fluoride is proven to be beneficial in these situation, because fluoride plays an important role in preventing dental cavity by strengthening the dental structure. If your teeth is susceptible to developing dental decay or cavities, your dentist is most likely to recommend a fluoride rich toothpaste for your regular dental cleaning.
Some brands of toothpaste also contain additional anti-bacterial and anti-microbial elements. You can also use mouth washing liquids with similar ingredients, or the ones that use chlorhexidine.
Frequent and thorough dental care routine can add a lot of mileage to help you prevent cavities and gum diseases. It is always wise to keep visiting your dentist or dental health expert to detect the early signs of a gum disease, plaque or tartar formation. This is help you to nip it at the root and control their recurrence.
Is there anything special I should tell my dentist?
Please enquire from your dentist for a prevention plan based on your unique medical and dental conditions. This plan might comprise:
How often do you need dental exams and cleanings?
Whether or not a supplemental fluoride based toothpaste would be effective?
If they would recommend any antimicrobial rinses or mouth washing liquids?
How to treat thrush infection if it starts to develop?
How should you deal with dry mouth problems?
Also prepare to ask questions like:
How often should you visit the office for exams or treatments based on your lung and oral health?
How can you reverse the negative impacts of your medications such as dry mouth or thrush?
How can you make appointments more comfortable — whether that’s adjusting the chair for easier breathing or using hand signals when you need to cough or require a break?
It’s important to make sure that you’re not sick or at least not coughing or suffering from breathing problems, while visiting a dentist. Let him know if you tend to get ticklish and end up coughing with sharp dental instruments in your mouth. Giving them your dental expert team a prior heads up about these situations only makes it a lot easier for both parties, and saves a lot of effort. If you have difficulty in breathing in a reclined chair, tell your dentist about it at the beginning of the procedure, for instance. Let them know if you would need a break during the procedure. If you use an inhaler on a regular basis, carry it to you dentist, for emergency situations.
Are there resources to help pay for dental treatment?
Regular oral and dental care goes a long way in preventing minor and major dental or oral health problems. Insurance policies don’t always cover dental care, thus it is important to take care of your teeth and gums before things get bad. Given below is a list of things that you can do
Brush your teeth and floss, especially before going to bed. Scrape your tongue if possible.
Consult a dentist about how to prevent problems from any medications you are on.
Visit your dentist as soon as you start experiencing problems with your teeth or gums, without postponing it.
Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco
How Lung Disease Can Impact Your Oral Health
The connection between oral disease and lung disease is a two way road. This practically means that bad lung conditions can affect your oral health and vice versa. Medications prescribed for some of the most common respiratory disorders like COPD, sleep apnea and asthma , are often known to cause dental cavity and dry mouth. Dry mouth is a situation where the mouth dries up because of low saliva production.
Specific drugs that are prescribed to cure lung diseases can also disturb the usual balance of the flora in our mouth. The white patches and lesions by thrush and lesions can be taken care of with proper anti-fungal medication.
Medications, when combined with systemic inflammation and disruption in your daily oral care routine can have adverse impacts on your overall health and can invite chronic respiratory diseases in adults. A research published by the JADA or the Journal of the American Dental Association claimed that patients struggling with COPD or asthma are more susceptible to losing their teeth than the ones who don’t suffer from respiratory ailments.
How to Avoid Lung Problems from Poor Dental Health
Maintaining your oral health is like adding another feather to the cap of your overall good health, specifically your respiratory health. And, if you wish to take care of your oral health, here are some more tips that might be able to help you:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least for two minutes every time.
Take special care while cleaning the gaps between your teeth, use a floss if possible, or a water jet.
Visit your dentist for regular examinations and for maintaining your dental health.
Have a transparent discussion with your dentist, about your medical history- that might have an overlapping impact with your dental treatment, even if you feel unrelated. They will be able to schedule your treatment accordingly.
As concerning and as serious all of these information sounds, it can be prevented with a good dental hygiene routine. A consistent and efficient effort to maintain a clean diet and a healthy oral care routine goes a long way in maintaining the balance in your mouth and in other parts of the body. It can prevent gum diseases and other corresponding inflammatory ailments. Talk to your general physician, lung-doctor and your dentist to gain a holistic view of the situation at hand and the ways to prevent and mend it.
Taking extra care of your mouth can deeply impact the process of preventing lung diseases, even the ones that can have unalterable effects. Our mouths, being one of the important access points to enter our body, preventing and eliminating the harmful diseases at the gateway saves us a lot of pain, effort and trouble.