New Study: Linking Dental Health and COPD

COPD Patients Ignoring Oral Health

A small observational study published in the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Journal of the COPD Foundation found that people with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have poor dental hygiene practices and reduced quality of life that is oral health-related. In the context of poor dental health, the greater number of patient’s teeth involved correlated with worsened daily respiratory symptoms.

Patients with COPD are reported to have poor oral hygiene and dental problems. With worsening symptoms, patients are unable to obtain adequate dental care possibly due to impaired mobility due to illness, use of oxygen, continued smoking, or poor access to dental insurance.

The small 60-day study included healthy controls and patients with COPD. Participants were 40 years or older. The COPD group had to have specific spirometric findings and at least a 10 pack-year smoking history. The healthy controls had to have no airflow obstruction and no current smoking. 30 participants were recruited (10 healthy controls, 20 with COPD). All 10 healthy participants completed the study, and in the COPD group, 3 dropped out.

Both groups had similar teeth brushing habits, at least once a day. More of the healthy controls had more frequent dental visits. Healthy controls also usually flossed once per day, while COPD participants, none. They also had a history of more dental infections, tooth extractions and higher prevalence of dentures, as well as fewer teeth. The COPD group had higher average amount of plaque on tooth surfaces but not statistically significant. Breathlessness was also positively correlated with the number of teeth had a positive correlation with percentage of days with cough, and wheeze, and sputum production.

The researchers noted that the microbiome of the lungs resembles the oral microbiome. The more diseased teeth a patient has potentially provide a large reservoir of pathogenic bacteria, such as Haemophilus influenzae, in saliva, which could create worsened respiratory symptoms. In addition, chronic periodontitis is a common inflammatory disorder and has previously been described in patients with COPD, but was not measured in this study.

Knowing Your Health

Bellingham dentistry is well aware how dental health can be impacted by certain medical conditions as serious as COPD. We monitor patient’s medical conditions whilst we treat their dental concerns. It’s always good to let us know health concerns or issues, especially history, before treatment.