Although Ol’ Man Winter is still stomping his feet in Michigan, spring weather is on its way to Southfield. Warmer temperatures mean lighter jackets, blooming flowers and, unfortunately, pollen – one of the many triggers of allergies and asthma.
Pollen, smog, dust mites, tobacco smoke, cold air, exercise, mold and viral infections act as irritants to the lungs and nasal passages. The airways react and become more sensitive. Lungs get congested and sinuses swell, making it harder to breath through the nose. Mouth breathing is the only option – and sometimes even that is a struggle if you have asthma.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7 million children in the United States have asthma. Studies in Sweden also have linked asthma with dental problems in children, teens and young adults.
Gum inflammation and cavities were the two main correlations identified in asthma studies by dental researchers from the Department of Cariology at Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden. Test subjects with healthy respiratory systems, however, showed a lesser degree of dental caries and gingivitis.
Researchers examined asthmatics – ages 3, 6, 12-16, and 18-24 – and a control group of healthy youths of similar age and geographical background. The results were telling.
- Only 5% of tested asthmatic teens were cavity-free, compared to 65% of “healthy teens.”
- Teens with “long-time moderate or severe asthma” had more gum inflammation than the control group.
- The 3-year-old asthmatics showed more dental caries than 3-year-olds in the “healthy” control group. This trend still existed in a follow-up exam three years later, when the kids were 6 years old.
- Adolescents with asthma had lower plaque pH than the control group, meaning their mouths were more acidic, making their teeth prone to decay and their gums vulnerable to inflammation.
- Cariogram data showed 55% of the control subjects had a “high chance of avoiding caries.” Only 10% in the asthma group showed a similar prognosis.
Researchers think low saliva levels contributed to the gum irritation and tooth decay. Saliva washes food particles from teeth and minimizes the growth of bacteria that contributes to decay.
When an asthmatic child exercises or sleeps, he often will breathe through the mouth to get enough air. Subsequently, the mouth dries out. Medication used to control asthma dries the mouth even more. While optimally a thirsty child reaches for water, statistics from the study indicate that asthmatics reported a higher consumption of sugary beverages than non-asthmatics. A dry mouth and sugary drinks invite tooth decay if good oral hygiene is not established.
If you live in Bloomfield Hills, Southfield or Farmington Hills and you have a child who has asthma, please call my cosmetic and general dentistry office at (248) 356-8790 and schedule your child for an evaluation and caries exam. Routine checkups, topical fluorides, sealants and learning the ABCs of daily dental care are important tools in guarding the health of those you love who have asthma.
So until next time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD