The Relation Between Gum Disease and Your Health

We’ve been discussing a lot about cosmetic dental work over the holidays, but a bit of news turns our attention to some critical health issues. Inadequate gum health may not just enhance your risk of needing dental implants. NYC residents should be aware of research from Yale University that links gum disease to a larger incidence of pneumonia. Oral health, particularly the health of the gums, has long been connected with various health issues in other parts of the body, including heart disease and diabetes, but this latest dental news reveals that there’s a connection between the mouth and pneumonia.

How does gum health relate to pneumonia? Well the easy explanation is the fact that bacteria in the mouth are breathed into the lungs from the throat, infecting the lungs and causing respiratory illness. This link between oral health and respiratory disease has been established for several years. The science behind it is a a bit more complex, but the basics should be adequate to motivate all of us to take excellent care of our gums. Diseased gums harbor a host of numerous bacteria which can be absorbed into the bloodstream, but they can also be inhaled into your lungs. Dr. Samit Joshi of Yale University suggests that changes occurring in oral bacteria can increase the susceptibility to acquire pneumonia. Increasing symptoms of gum disease are a source of that bacteria change.

Leading British dentists are warning individuals about the risk, pointing to several studies linking oral health and respiratory disease. Both the elderly and the young are especially at risk, and their gum health should be monitored closely. CEO of the British Dental Health Foundation offers some advice:

  • Brush teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste
  • Reduce sweet food and drink intake
  • Visit a dentist regularly

Sound advice for any situation, but winter months presents a greater cocktail of respiratory germs, with more people locked indoors, and colds and flues on a higher level of incidence, so extra vigilance is a great idea. Things to look for include bleeding from the gums during regular brushing, bad breath, frequent mouth infections, or loose teeth. These are all signs of gum disease, that could contribute to pneumonia.

According to the CDC, pneumonia accounts for about 17.3 deaths per 100,000 people in the United States, so keeping track of your oral health and the oral health of your loved ones is not just about pretty teeth, it’s about protecting lives.

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