What in the world could asthma have to do with gum disease? Apparently, a lot. A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology reveals that people with asthma are one-fifth more likely to experience gum disease than people who do not have asthma.

The Asthma Epidemic

Around 339 million people around the globe experience asthma, according to the World Health Organization. Asthma is an inflammatory disease and a common lung condition that narrows and inflames the airways, therefore resulting in symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightening of the chest.

It often starts in childhood, although it can also develop in adults, and affects people of all ages. Some children “outgrow” asthma, and it resolves by adulthood. There is currently no cure, but treatment can help control the symptoms.

The Asthma/Oral Health Connection

Asthma, not surprisingly, can also cause dry mouth, which has been proven to lead to excess plaque buildup and gum disease. So, if you have patients who deal with asthma, it’s important to help them take steps to look after their dental health and keep plaque and gum disease at bay.

The Trouble with Dry Mouth

People who have asthma sometimes experience dry mouth, a relatively benign condition in which the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth occurs more often in people with asthma because restricted airflow forces them to breathe through their mouths.

Asthma inhalers can further contribute to this condition by repressing salivary glands and limiting saliva production. And as you know, saliva is essential for washing away bad bacteria. A dry mouth creates ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to hang out and create plaque buildup. This can lead to things like bad breath, tooth decay, and, if left untreated, gum disease.

And a Word About Gum Disease

As a dental professional, you know there are several ways your patients can protect their oral health and keep gum disease at bay in spite of dealing with asthma. Here are a few tips to share with patients.

For patients who use an inhaler to help manage asthma:

  • Always rinse mouth with water after using an inhaler.
  • Consider brushing teeth after inhaler use, as it may be even more effective.
  • Use an inhaler that is easy on the teeth and mouth, as some make you more prone to cavities than others (some inhalers are sweetened with sugar to make use more palatable).
  • Sip water regularly throughout the day to help with dry mouth symptoms.

Ultimately, the best way for your patients to look after their dental health is by keeping on top of dental hygiene with regular brushing and flossing and keeping their twice-a-year dental cleaning regimen. While gum disease can be treated, prevention is, without a doubt, the best approach. By staying mindful and proactive about their oral health, people with asthma can easily maintain a beautiful and healthy smile for a lifetime.