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Chronic Disease | May 30, 2024 | 2 min read

Respiratory Readiness: Breathe Easier with Good Oral Care

Essential Takeaways

  • Taking care of your gums can significantly reduce your risk of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, asthma, COPD, and lung cancer. Brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent gum disease, a condition linked to these illnesses.

Pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer: All of these potentially deadly respiratory diseases are associated with one seemingly innocuous, easily preventable condition — periodontal disease. 

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, impacts 47.2% of Americans 30 and older, meaning that nearly half of American adults are potentially unaware of the life-altering pathogens that could be lingering in their gums. 

In this post, we review the medical studies that have exposed the connection between respiratory conditions and gum disease, and what you can do to lower your risk of both chronic and deadly illnesses and periodontal disease alike. 

Gum disease and asthma

Multiple studies have shown a connection between oral health and asthma. One study of 220 people — 113 with asthma and 107 who served as controls — found that adults with gum disease were ~5x more likely to develop asthma than those without periodontal disease. 

While the medical community doesn’t quite know the distinct correlation (or causation) between asthma and gum disease, one leading thought is that oral hygiene can be an indicator of poor general systemic health, from which asthma can result. It’s also widely known that asthma can cause periodontal disease due to the excessive and chronic dry mouth that many asthma patients deal with. 

Gum disease and lung cancer

Individuals with severe periodontal disease are 24% more likely to develop cancer in general, but lung cancer (along with colorectal cancer) comes with particularly high increased risk. 

One leading thought suggests that the proximity of the oral cavity to the lungs and the connected airway between them can be a pathway to transferring periodontal pathogens from the mouth to other parts of the respiratory system. This theory is supported by the 43% increased risk of esophageal cancer found in people with gum disease. 

Gum disease and COPD

Whether gum disease causes COPD is still up for debate in the medical community, but one thing is certain: Perodontitis can worsen COPD symptoms. When periodontal bacteria in the mouth travel to the lungs, they can worsen COPD and also cause systemic inflammation, which can contribute to the progression and development of COPD. One study also found that people with COPD were 1.19x more likely to develop gum disease, exposing the bidirectional relationship between these two conditions — and their natural tendencies to exacerbate one another.

Oral health is respiratory health

While pulmonologists, oncologists, dentists, and medical researchers continue to uncover the link between the mouth and the respiratory system, these findings reveal a mouth-lung connection that can’t be ignored. 

The next time you’re tempted to skip your annual dental check-in or go to sleep without brushing, remember: Oral health is overall health. The way you treat your mouth, teeth, and gums has lasting, life-altering consequences on the rest of your body, and the simplest daily habits could help you avoid deadly diseases down the road.


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Meet the Author

Kenny Brown

We founded Feno to revolutionize dental care, understanding the vital connection between oral and overall health. Our tech driven products offer more than superb cleaning—they give you routine & insightful health monitoring to help improve your overall health.

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