By Lucy Wyndham
People with asthma are almost one fifth more likely to experience gum disease, a recent study in the Journal of Periodontology reveals. Roughly 235 million people around the globe experience asthma — an inflammatory disease that narrows and inflames the airways, therefore resulting in symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightening of the chest. This condition can also cause dry mouth, which can lead to plaque buildup and gum disease. If you have asthma, it’s important to take steps to look after your dental health and keep plaque and gum disease at bay.
Avoiding common asthma triggers
People with asthma can avoid experiencing symptoms and better protect their dental health by limiting their exposure to triggers. Asthma has a number of triggers, including extreme weather conditions (high humidity or low temperatures,) airborne irritants like smoke and chemical fumes, and allergens like pollen, animal dander, and household pests. It can be especially important to be vigilant for signs of household pests as they can often get inside without owners realizing. In particular, cockroaches, rodents, and bed bugs can exacerbate asthma symptoms, so it’s important to check your home regularly for signs of activity and tackle infestations if necessary.
The problem of dry mouth
If you have asthma, you probably sometimes experience dry mouth — also known as Xerostomia — a condition in which the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth often occurs in people with asthma as restricted airflow forces them to breathe through the mouth. Asthma inhalers further contribute to this condition by repressing salivary glands and limiting saliva production. Saliva is essential for washing away bad bacteria. Instead, dry mouth creates ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to harbor and create plaque buildup — leading to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Preventing gum disease
Fortunately, there are several ways you can protect their oral health and keep gum disease at bay in spite of asthma. Always rinse your mouth with water after using your inhaler. You may even consider brushing your teeth after using it, too, which can be even more effective. It’s important to use an inhaler that is easy on the teeth and mouth, as some make you more prone to cavities than others. Your current inhaler may even be sweetened with sugar to make it more palatable. Ask your doctor if there’s an alternative suitable inhaler available that can help you protect your oral health. You can also let your dentist know about your asthma and ask them for advice on the best ways to manage your oral health and hygiene. For example, sipping water regularly throughout the day is an effective way of preventing dry mouth.
Ultimately, the best way to look after your dental health is by keeping on top of your dental hygiene with regular brushing and flossing. While gum disease can be treated, prevention is undoubtedly the best approach. By staying proactive about your oral health, people with asthma can easily maintain a beautiful and healthy smile for life.