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Understanding the Connection Between Asthma and Oral Health

There are an estimated 20 million asthma sufferers in the U.S. today, and the dental profession is becoming aware of an increasing number of patients who, while taking medication for asthma, are also showing increasing signs of oral health problems. Most asthmatics breath through their mouth, and this combined with the usual corticosteroid medicine given for asthma, leads to reduced saliva flow. Saliva is the natural cleaner of the mouth and when its effects are reduced, asthma sufferers have a higher risk of tooth cavities in any remaining natural teeth and bad breath. The use of asthmatic inhalers can cause irritation at the back of the mouth, leading to infections which can spread throughout all of the oral regions.


Asthma and Dental Anxiety

Some asthmatic patients seem to have anxiety about dental visits. They should speak to their dentist about this, since a good dentist-patient relationship can overcome such anxiety. If an asthmatic person is nervous about a dental visit, he/she should try—

  • During dental visits, breath slowly and regularly. Nervousness induces breath holding, which in turn reduces oxygen intake and leads to feelings of panic.
  • Avoid the drinking of liquids which contain caffeine.
  • Select a time for the visit when the person is likely to be relaxed and not under pressure.
  • Always make sure that the patient carries his/her asthmatic inhaler.
  • Encourage the patient to eat high protein food prior to the visit, they have a settling effect.


Steps to Follow to Check Asthma and Maintain Oral Hygiene

It is important that the asthma sufferer has good communication with the dentist. The patient should make the dentist aware of the condition, and that it is being controlled by medication. The patient should continue with their oral hygiene habits of regular brushing and flossing, and ensure that the mouth is thoroughly rinsed with water or a dental mouthwash after using the asthma inhaler.