Is there a link between oral health and respiratory diseases?

If you are reading this article, it is likely that you suffer from some kind of respiratory disease, whether chronic or transitory, and you have been told that it can affect your oral health. Perhaps, as is the case with several patients at the clinic, you have suffered from one of these diseases for years, but it has never occurred to you to relate it to your oral health, and a friend, acquaintance or other healthcare professional has told you that they share a close relationship.

The first point we would like to clarify would serve as an answer to the title of this article: yes, there is a link. We will see to what extent, how and why, and also according to which diseases. We would also like to clarify that this relationship, like almost all relationships established in our body, is bidirectional. These diseases can and do influence our oral health and vice versa.

So let us start by first clarifying this relationship in both directions.

Oral health and its impact on respiratory diseases

The body, as we have already told on several occasions in our blog, functions as a single organism, a whole, composed of different systems that science has already shown to constantly influence each other. Just as a problem in our renal system ends up affecting the rest of our general health, everything that happens in our oral cavity also affects our general health on a systemic level. We have already traced this relationship on other occasions, talking about periodontics, for example. The relationship between periodontics and respiratory diseases is pointed out in several studies, one of them demonstrated at Yale University, which indicate that the bacteria that live in our mouth, especially plaque, can be transferred to the lungs, thus causing respiratory diseases.

It should be noted that there are more than 1000 bacterial species present in the oral microbiota, which affects the relationship between the oral cavity and the lungs, making oral health critical to respiratory health. The most common respiratory diseases are pneumonia, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although the latter has tobacco as one of its main causes, it has also been linked to poor oral health.

The impact of respiratory diseases on oral health

On the other hand, respiratory diseases have an impact on oral health in several ways. Firstly, because of the disease itself and also, sometimes, because of the medication we take to combat it.

In this sense, many of the consequences in this regard stem from the way saliva is regulated. As we have already explained in other articles on our blogsaliva plays a fundamental role in our oral health. A decrease in saliva production increases the risk of caries and infection as well as other dental problems. Therefore, patients with the aforementioned COPD, who often tend to breathe through their mouths, can develop oral health complications. We know, thanks to our orthodontic teamThe fact is that oral respiration at a growing age can cause problems with the bite, swallowing and a sunken palate, but also, at a more adult age, it also causes dryness, which facilitates the processes of infection.

Something similar occurs with asthmatic processes, although in this particular case it is due to the use of inhalers, whose side effects include dryness or a bad taste in the mouth. For this reason, patients taking this medication are advised to rinse their mouths immediately afterwards. If we talk about another case of impacts, we could also highlight sinusitis, which causes pain and pressure in the upper teeth and jaw, or feverish processes, which can lead to the appearance of mouth sores.

And what can we do to improve it?

To prevent both diseases from affecting our oral or respiratory health and complicating each other, we can follow a series of tips:

Take care of your oral hygiene

Obviously, brushing three times a day is something that all dental professionals recommend, but, as we have indicated, it is even more important for inhaler users. It is recommended, whenever possible, to try to ensure that inhalation and brushing coincide, so that brushing always takes place immediately after inhalation.

Eliminating tobacco

There is little to say about this section, which is so harmful to both respiratory and oral health.

Reviewing medication with the GP

Although they are less and less prescribed, especially if there is a viable alternative, it is important to check that our regular medication for respiratory diseases, especially if they are chronic diseases. Side effects in the mouth, such as dryness, infections or increased tooth decay, can be quite problematic with prolonged use.

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