In a recent two-year study of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers demonstrated that periodontal therapy was linked with a marked improvement in the condition.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, examined COPD patients who had been given varying degrees of treatment for chronic periodontitis—varying from routing oral hygiene instructions to scaling and root planing.
They found that patients who had received periodontal therapy were able to perform better in pulmonary function tests. Those who received routine oral hygiene instructions had significantly higher incidence of worsening COPD symptoms.
Given the close proximity of the mouth and lungs, it is not hard to see how an oral infection might have an effect on lung problems. In fact, aspiration of oral pathogens and their enzymes is the most common way this effect occurs.
The good news is that, as this COPD study showed, optimal oral care that includes reduction of biofilm and associated pathogens can have a positive effect on respiratory disease. A study late last year demonstrated that enhanced oral care reduced risk for lower respiratory infections in hospital ICUs.
According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 11 million individuals. That a condition so debilitating can be improved by periodontal treatment is encouraging, as the potential number of lives that could be improved is staggering. Further research will hopefully continue to support a positive impact of pathogen-directed periodontal treatment on the lives of patients with COPD.
Effects of periodontal treatment on lung function and exacerbation frequency in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic periodontitis: A 2-year pilot randomized controlled trial