Breathing doesn't come easy to asthmatics and neither does their oral care. Approximately 300 million people worldwide struggle with asthma and they are more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-asthmatics. Gum disease begins with bacteria growing under the gum line. Mouth breathing and use of inhalers are two factors that lead asthmatics to be less protected against gum-disease-causing bacteria growth. Consistent oral health care and proper use of medications may reduce the risk, however.
It's a Dry, Dry Land
The majority of asthma medications are taken orally, through the use of inhalers and nebulizers, increasing the risk of damage to the mouth, teeth, and gums. Inhalers can spray up to 60 mph, leaving the majority of the medicine covering the back of the throat and mouth rather than in the lungs. The effects of medication being absorbed by mouth tissue on oral health include saliva reduction, increased calculus (tartar), risk of infection-causing lesions, and decreased bone density, all contributing causes of periodontal disease. While medications are slowing saliva production, mouth breathing further dries out the mouth. Saliva protects the mouth by washing away bacteria that causes gum disease, cavities, and halitosis.
An Ounce of Prevention
Asthmatics can protect their gums by learning proper use of their inhalers and following drug instructions to rinse their mouth after dosing. Saliva production can be increased by chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on grapes or lemons. Additionally, asthmatics can request an inhaler that makes use of a spacer chamber, which distributes more of the medication to the lungs. The more medicine transported to the lungs, the more effective it is in treating asthma symptoms and the less medication is absorbed by tissues in the mouth, which reduces the negative oral symptoms associated with inhalers.
Brushing and flossing regularly is critical to removing plaque and bacteria and reducing gum inflammation. Contrary to popular belief, brushing right after using an inhaler is more harmful due to the weakened enamel. Brushing before inhaler use or several hours after will be less damaging. Rinsing the mouth with water is also beneficial. The use of an antimicrobial mouthwash and regular dental visits will also reduce the risk of developing gum disease.
While asthmatics are more likely to develop gum disease due to mouth breathing and side effects of medications, a little preventive effort will go a long way. Be sure to provide a dentist (such as Campbell Dental Centre Ltd) with a complete list of your medications so he can monitor the full health of your mouth.