Left untreated, gum disease has serious consequences, not the least of which is the destruction of your gums and jawbone. In fact, the extensive damage of unchecked gum disease makes it the number one cause of adult tooth loss in the United States today. Nevertheless, tooth loss and the diminished confidence of a gapped smile may not be the worst of gum disease’s consequences. Today, we explore gum disease’s possible connection with respiratory infections to highlight the importance of oral-systemic health and maintaining a clean, gum disease-free smile.
What Exactly is Gum Disease?
A healthy human mouth contains over 600 different identifiable kinds of oral bacteria. The good news is that most of these microbes are harmless. But a few of them can prove dangerous when allowed to accumulate, such as Porphyromonas gingivalis. As oral bacteria form dental plaque and adhere to your teeth and gums, P. gingivalis cause excessive inflammation that damages your gum tissues, leading to gum disease. Left untreated, gum disease can continue underneath your gums and afflict your jawbone, destroying the structures that support your teeth.
The Gum Disease – Respiratory Illness Link
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that patients with gum disease exhibit an increased risk of developing respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to name a few. The study involved 200 participants between the ages of 20 and 60, each with at least 20 of their natural teeth remaining. The results of the study showed that patients with a history of poor periodontal health were more likely to be hospitalized for respiratory troubles, highlighting the importance of maintaining healthy gums and teeth for life.