When you brush your teeth, did you ever imagine you could be protecting your lungs? Scientists in Europe are now looking into how good oral hygiene can protect people against developing chronic lung diseases.
The idea that good dental care can protect general health is not new, as the bacteria responsible for gum disease have already been linked to heart disease. Gum disease is a common bacterial infection that causes extensive inflammation in the gums. The condition destroys the gums, causing them to pull away from teeth and creating deep pockets called periodontal pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets create the ideal anaerobic environment for the bacteria to thrive, causing increasing destruction that affects the gums and the bone and ligaments around teeth, so eventually, teeth loosen in their sockets.
It is suspected that the bacteria responsible for gum disease can enter the bloodstream through fragile and bleeding gums, travelling to the heart. Bacteria found in dental plaque have also been discovered in heart muscle and valves.
Now, researchers are investigating the link with lung diseases. Scientists believe that bacteria in the mouth can also spread to the lungs. They are particularly interested in whether bacteria present in the mouth can affect the health of the lungs and the risk of developing lung disease in the future.
The project involves hundreds of participants from a previous study who had given gum samples a decade ago and were subsequently monitored for respiratory health. The BRuSH project is funded by the EU and runs until 2024. It tests the hypothesis that bacteria-dominated oral microbiome communities can negatively impact lung health. The lead scientist is particularly interested in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, both of which are incurable. People with COPD often have severe gum disease, but it isn’t yet clear which develops first.
Younger patients with mild to moderate gum disease are being monitored as part of the project to try and resolve this question. These patients will have their periodontitis treated traditionally to see if removing bacteria in a younger population before they have a respiratory disease can improve lung function. If scientists discover this is the case, it will show that good oral care is much more important for maintaining healthy lungs than previously realized. The results would emphasize the importance of brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist while still young.
Taking a More Holistic Approach to Dental Care
Our regular patients will already know that we much prefer to take a holistic approach. When you come and see us, we consider your overall health and dental health as we are fully aware the two are closely connected.
We recommend regular dental checkups and cleanings to ensure your gums remain in the pink of health year-round. Each patient receives a custom dental care plan from Dr. Mackie, detailing how frequently we recommend dental visits and other treatments we feel could benefit your oral health. As our hygienists clean your teeth professionally, they can identify areas that could use a bit more love. If needed, they can work directly with you to ensure you can brush and floss like a professional.
Our preventive approach to dental care helps our patients maintain healthy gums more easily. If you do have signs of gum disease, we can treat it gently yet effectively using the latest laser therapy that is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, destroying bacteria that cause gum disease without needing to use antibiotics or more invasive surgery. While good gum health will ensure you can smile confidently, it may also mean you can breathe more easily.