Evidence suggests that periodontal disease increases the risk of respiratory diseases, particularly pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Pneumonia is simply inflammation of the lungs as a result of a bacterial or viral infection and can be community-acquired or hospital-acquired (nosocomial). Conditions that increase the risk of nosocomial pneumonia include being dependent on someone else for oral care (leading to higher amounts of plaque), and infrequent tooth brushing. Other studies revealed that intervention programs which curtailed dental plaque formation reduced the risk of penumonia. There is also evidence that an association between oral bacteria and pneumonia risk exists. Based on the aforementioned studies, it appears there are implications that institutionalized people living in nursing homes or those in hospitals for extended periods of time are a high-risk group for pneumonia related to oral bacteria. These individuals have a higher exposure to bacteria, have less potential to pay attention to their oral health, and are therefore more likely to have poor general health.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes chronic bronchitis from smoking, chronic exposure to atmospheric pollutants, second-hand smoke, and genetic conditions.
Potential mechanisms by which oral bacteria influence respiratory diseases have been investigated; regardless of the mechanism, respiratory pathogens in the oral cavity appear to promote pneumonia and COPD. While more studies need to define the relationships between periodontal disease and respiratory disease, it is believed that decreasing oral bacterial growth by brushing and flossing may reduce the risk of pneumonia especially in the institutionalized population.