Periodontitis and pneumonia - how the mouth makes the lungs sick

It is considered the secret widespread disease - pneumonia . In Germany alone, around 500,000 people are affected by this infectious disease every year, a third of whom require inpatient treatment. This makes pneumonia one of the most common diagnoses in German hospitals, along with heart attacks and strokes. However, the hospital itself is often the cause of pneumonia. It is not without reason that it is also referred to as a typical hospital illness.

The cause of pneumonia is a disorder of the alveoli (air sacs) and the lung tissue between them. The cavities, the basis of a smooth gas exchange, are compacted by pus and water deposits in the tissue and make the exchange of respiratory gases more difficult. Fever, chills, cough, joint pain and breathing difficulties set in.

Chronic pneumonia - a persistent companion

With timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, pneumonia subsides after two to three weeks. However, if drug treatment is slow to respond or if secondary symptoms such as sepsis or meningitis occur, the infectious disease can last up to twelve weeks. If the symptoms persist for six to eight weeks, the doctor speaks of chronic pneumonia, which means a high level of suffering for the patient. The persistent fatigue slows the body down and requires longer than average periods of rest. Frequent absences, reduced performance and even incapacity to work - chronic pneumonia takes its toll.

Periodontitis - the first step towards pneumonia

The mouth is the largest entry point into the human body. However, it not only provides access to the oesophagus and intestines. Together with the nose, it is closely connected to the lungs. This means that oral health does not remain without influence on lung health. Periodontitisin particular, the chronic inflammation of the tooth bed, threatens the human respiratory tract. If periodontitis pathogens settle in the periodontium, they inflame the gums and increasingly spread to the surrounding oral region. If the treatment of periodontitis is delayed, the periodontitis bacteria can also spread to other organs such as the digestive tract, the cardiovascular system or the lungs and inflame their tissue.

As early as 1999, Japanese researchers established a link between periodontitis and pneumonia. 417 residents from eleven nursing homes, divided into an oral hygiene group and a non-oral hygiene group, took part in the study. After an observation period of two years, new cases of pneumonia occurred in 34 out of 182 patients with neglected oral hygiene, compared to only 21 out of 184 patients with good oral hygiene. A further study by El-Solh confirms the theses: Germ-reducing mouth rinses have a positive effect on respiratory disease.