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Gum Disease Treatment May Help COPD Symptoms
June 13, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Lung disease symptoms may improve after treatment for gum disease, a new study suggests.

The study included 60 people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. This lung disease includes cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Each person in the study also had gum disease (periodontal disease). Researchers randomly assigned them to one of three treatments:

  • Scaling and root planing – This is standard treatment for gum disease. It involves cleaning the teeth both above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar.
  • Removing plaque and tartar only above the gum line, not below.
  • Receiving oral hygiene instructions only (no tooth cleaning).

Researchers collected data six months after the study started, and again one year and two years later. At all of these points, the two treatment groups had improved gum health, compared with those who got instruction only.

After two years, the treatment groups also had better lung health. This was measured in two ways:

  • The amount of air a person could forcefully exhale in one second (known as FEV1)
  • The percentage of a person's total air capacity that he or she could forcefully expire in one second (known as FEV1/FVC ratio).

In people with COPD, the second measurement is less than 0.70.

Doctors use the first measurement to figure out how severe a person's COPD is. In people with moderate disease, FEV1 is between 50% and 80% of normal. In people with severe disease, FEV1 is less than 30% of normal.

People with COPD who were treated for their gum disease also had fewer lung flare-ups. These are episodes of coughing and shortness of breath. They can be life threatening.

Other studies published in the past few years have suggested links between gum disease and lung disease. In 2013, a small Turkish study showed fewer flare-ups after gum disease treatment in a small group of people with COPD. Also, a 2012 review of published research found that people with gum disease are more likely than others to be diagnosed with COPD.

The study appears in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

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