At the start of this week, word went out to smokers and vapers that their habits may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 – not that this is at all surprising. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Smoking and vaping hurt the lungs and weaken the immune system.
They also raise your risk of gum disease. And according to research just published in Experimental Gerontology, gum disease may raise your risk of death from respiratory disease – at least if you’re an older individual.
Talk about a vicious cycle!
The study involved 1385 senior patients, age 75 and up. Dental evaluations were done using panoramic x-rays they’d had taken at a dental hospital in Shanghai. Demographic and info on comorbid health conditions was collected from the local health authorities.
Once they crunched the numbers, the research team found a significant relationship between periodontal health and several respiratory illnesses. The more severe the gum disease, the greater the risk of lung problems. Current smokers and obese people were at the greatest risk of all.
Although the present study cannot ascertain causal association, it provides substantial evidence that poor periodontal health is associated with respiratory disease in the older patients, particularly in smokers and patients with BMI < 25 kg/m2.
As with other associations between systemic illness and gum disease, one of the common denominators here is chronic inflammation. It’s the hallmark of gum disease – hence, the symptom of red, puffy, tender gums – and of all other diseases that science has linked to it, from heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis, from diabetes to cancer and cognitive decline.
Just another reminder that taking care of your health in general means taking good care of your oral health, as well.