We all know the ghastly damage tooth decay can do to children’s teeth. What many parents may be unaware of is that tooth decay, tender gums and periodontal disease can also increase the risk of lung infections.
That news can make even the sweetest candy bar leaving a long-term sour taste in kids’ overall health.
As Colgate.com’s Jenny Green notes, when oral bacteria travel from the mouth to the lungs, they can give way to dangerous viruses like pneumonia. This increases a person’s symptoms of chronic respiratory conditions like emphysema.
A study by the American Academy of Periodontology found a direct link between poor oral health and chronic respiratory disease. The study concluded people with respiratory diseases had worse periodontal health (a mouth’s health status below the gums) than people with healthy lungs.
The culprit is one of the usual likely suspects of poor oral health: Bad bacteria. Our mouths are a bacteria heaven, containing more bacteria than there are on earth. The average mouth contains up to 650 species of bacteria. Healthy mouths boast a strong balance of good and bad bacteria. Remember, most bacteria are harmless. But when harmful bacteria grow out of control, they pose problems not only for teeth (tooth decay), gums (inflamed and bleeding gums) and underlying oral structures, but the rest of the body, including the lungs.
Bacteria enters our lungs when we inhale, and harmful bacteria can live and grow like weeds in our lungs. As we breathe in and out, tiny droplets of saliva are carried to and from the mouth with each breath. When harmful bacteria overrun our mouths, the respiratory fallout can be profoundly harmful. Bad bacteria can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, worsen conditions like emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and minimize the positive effects of treatments and medications.
Bad oral bacteria are simply bad news. For when gum disease and advanced periodontal diseases begin to break down oral tissues, they also allow oral bacteria to leak into the bloodstream and access the lungs.
The long-term damage doesn’t end there. If kids carry bad bacteria and oral health into adulthood: Bad oral bacteria may also attach to fatty buildup in your arteries, increasing the chances of stroke or heart attacks in adults.
The good news: Children’s guardian angels for good oral health can detect the gum disease and periodontal diseases that can cause serious lung infections. Regular visits to the dentist, along with a daily diet of brushing, flossing, rinsing and eating healthy, can keep kids’ chewing and breathing easy.