Public Release: 

Study shows patients with good periodontal health breathe easier

American Academy of Periodontology

CHICAGO - New research confirms findings that periodontal disease may increase a person's risk for the respiratory disorder Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the sixth leading cause of mortality in the United States. The study, published in this month's Journal of Periodontology, also noted a correlation between the amount of periodontal disease and lung capacity.

For this study, researchers analyzed the periodontal and respiratory health of 13,792 patients. Patients with periodontal disease, defined by mean periodontal attachment loss (MAL) of greater than 3 millimeters, were found to have nearly a one-and-a-half times greater risk of COPD. A distinct trend also was noted in that lung function seemed to diminish with increased periodontal attachment loss. This suggests that periodontal disease activity may promote the progression of COPD.

"Identification of potential risk factors that contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis or emphysema - respiratory diseases that comprise COPD - may suggest interventions that could prevent or delay the onset of the disease, or slow its progression," explained Frank A. Scannapieco, D.M.D., lead researcher of the study. "Based on these and previous research findings, it is conceivable that improved oral health may help prevent the progression of COPD. This is good news for the estimated 16 million Americans who suffer from it."

Scannapieco cautioned that research does not conclude that periodontal disease causes COPD. "We know that the onset and progression of COPD is dependent on smoking, and that repeated bacterial infections can worsen the lung disease. It is possible that periodontal bacteria could travel to the lungs through saliva or normal breathing and in some way promote lung infection. Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease may contribute to inflammation of the lining of the lung airway, which limits the amount of air that passes to and from the lungs."

"For a long time we've known that people who smoke, are exposed to environmental pollution, or are genetically predisposed are at increased risk for development of COPD," explained Michael McGuire, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Now mounting evidence suggests that periodontal disease may work in concert with these factors and contribute to the progression of this disease."

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A referral to a periodontist or free brochure titled Periodontal Diseases: What You Need to Know is available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM or by visiting the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org. The American Academy of Periodontology is a 7,500-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the study, Potential Associations Between Chronic Respiratory Disease and Periodontal Disease: Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, is available by calling 312/573.3243.

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