A large, population-based study in Northern Europe has identified a link between oral health and respiratory health. The results, which are some of the first to connect oral health and asthma, were published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The study accounted for factors such as age, smoking, education, location, gender, and health history and found that none of these factors explained a significant link between gum bleeding and respiratory disease. However, the connection was markedly higher in current smokers.
Researchers speculated that the cause of oral infection—pathogens—is likely to blame for this increased incidence of respiratory symptoms, particularly asthma:
“Interpreted in the light of previous literature, the findings suggest that aggressive oral pathogens as well as local factors of the mucosa of the oral cavity and airways may be important for the link between oral and airways health.”
They also noted that gum bleeding increased as BMI increased and was higher in all groups with cardio-metabolic diseases.
Given the close physical proximity of the mouth and airway, the connection between oral health and respiratory conditions like asthma is not surprising. Recent studies have shown that improved oral care may reduce respiratory infections in hospital intensive care units and that periodontal therapy may even improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
It appears that that periodontal health and pathogen load should be considered when addressing respiratory disease, and that elevated oral care including pathogen-directed treatment can have a positive impact on the lives of those suffering from respiratory conditions like asthma.