Respiratory conditions are medical conditions that affect the lungs and someone’s ability to breath. Some respiratory conditions are genetic while others are caused by lifestyle or environmental factors. Common respiratory conditions include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, tuberculosis and sinusitis. Respiratory conditions can have an adverse effect on your oral health. For example, people suffering from certain respiratory diseases may be using anti-inflammatory medications, which means they can experience dry mouth, increase in plaque and gingivitis development and be more susceptible to yeast and fungal infections.
Asthma is a respiratory condition where a person’s airways become inflamed and swollen making it difficult to breathe. This condition is controlled using medication but sometimes the medications have an side effects that affect your oral health. Strong anti-inflammatory medicines can cause dry mouth and also make you more susceptible to fungal infections in your mouth. One way to prevent fungal infections is to rinse your mouth with water.
Sleep apnea is a respiratory condition where you stop breathing during sleep. It is caused by an obstruction in your airway during sleep. This obstruction can be because of the tongue or the soft tissues of the mouth. Sleep apnea can cause serious cardiovascular problems, so it’s important to talk to your dentist if you think you are experiencing it.
Dentists are playing an active role in helping patients address potentially serious breathing problems that occur during sleep.
The American Dental Association defines obstructive sleep apnea as a disorder in which breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep. In a literature review article published in the May 2009 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers say that a periodic lack of oxygen in the blood can have damaging affects throughout the body. The Potentially Harmful Medical Consequences of Untreated Sleep-Disordered Breathing: The Evidence Supporting Brain Damage, is co-authored by Dr. Glenn Clark, director of the Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine Program at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, and Dr. Michael Simmons, USC clinical associate professor. “Periodic hypoxia [low oxygen levels] can bring about serious cardiovascular and central nervous system complications,” said Dr. Clark.
Episodic hypoxia has been linked to cellular damage in the brain — which may not be reversible — and cognitive changes in laboratory animals and humans. Dr. Clark added that studies have further suggested that sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea may have negative affects on learning and memory functions.
What’s more, the cardiovascular implications of sleep apnea are worrisome. Dr. Clark said that during periods of hypoxia, hemoglobin, the molecule that normally binds to oxygen in the blood, instead takes oxygen from the cell walls along the interior of blood vessels. This changes the properties of the vessels in such a way that allows plaque to bind more easily, which could potentially lead to atherosclerosis and other serious cardiovascular problems.
For example, people suffering from certain respiratory diseases may be using anti-inflammatory medications, which means they can experience dry mouth, increase in plaque and gingivitis development, and be more susceptible to yeast and fungal infections.