News + Research

On topic with Dr. Dill: a healthy smile may help you breathe easier


Nearly all Americans know that poor oral health can have negative effects on their overall well-being.1 In fact, gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.


Oral health can also play a role with lung problems. That’s because billions of mostly harmless microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — linger in your mouth and can travel to your lungs as you breathe. Some of these organisms can cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

The problem often starts with poor dental habits that can cause your saliva to have significantly more bacteria. As bacteria, plaque and tartar build up along and below your gumline, your gums may become irritated, inflamed and infected — all signs of gum disease. Almost half of all adults 30 and older show signs of gum disease.2

Research shows gum disease can increase the likelihood of developing respiratory issues such as bronchitis or pneumonia, especially for those who are elderly, live in a nursing home or have other health conditions. One study showed 1 in 10 deaths from pneumonia among nursing home residents could have been prevented with better dental hygiene.3

Severe respiratory problems are a hallmark of COVID-19 with about 1 in 5 COVID-19 patients developing these complications.4 Researchers are studying whether people with gum disease may be at greater risk of a more severe respiratory outcome.

Good oral health care can help protect your overall health — and may also prevent or reduce the severity of lung problems. So breathe easy and follow some simple steps for a healthy mouth.

6 steps for good oral health

1. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two full minutes each time.

2. Floss daily to remove plaque and any food stuck between teeth.

3. Visit your dentist regularly for preventive care. Check with your dental office about steps taken to maintain safety during the pandemic.


4. Change your toothbrush or brush head every three to four months, or sooner if bristles become worn.

5. Maintain a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean proteins and lots of water.

6. Avoid all forms of tobacco including vaping.


12020 Delta Dental Adult's Oral Health & Well-Being Survey

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3Journal of Dental Research

4California Dental Association

Meet Delta Dental’s Vice President of Dental Science and Network Strategy, Joseph Dill, DDS. With more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, including eight in private practice and 16 in dental insurance, Dr. Dill provides expert insights and helpful advice to keep you smiling bright.