Asthma and Cavities: Common in Kids but Not Linked

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Tooth decay

A long-suspected link between asthma and tooth decay doesn’t exist, say researchers in a newly published literature review.

Dr. Gerardo Maupomé, professor of preventive and community dentistry at the Indiana University School of Dentistry and first author of the study in September’s Journal of the American Dental Association, said the idea of a connection likely stems from emergency room reports from workers who see children with poorly managed asthma.

“These children could also be more likely to have poorly managed dental conditions, and therefore tooth decay,” said Dr. Maupomé. “It’s reasonable to believe that poor clinical management may be associated with both conditions, not the asthma that is causing the cavities

"Is There a Relationship between Asthma and Dental Caries?: A Critical Review of the Literature” examined the 27 separate studies which looked for a link between asthma and cavities that were reported in 29 papers published between 1976 and March 2010. The large number of variables involved, including severity of asthma symptoms and the variety of types of treatment for the disease, has made it difficult to unequivocally determine whether there is a causal link between the two.

“We found little evidence to suggest that asthma causes tooth decay,” said Dr. Maupomé, who is also a Regenstrief Institute affiliated scientist. “In fact, the two largest studies we reviewed found that children with asthma appear to have fewer cavities than others. This may be because their parents are used to taking them to health-care providers, and routinely bring them to the dentist.”

Tooth decay and asthma are the two most prevalent chronic childhood diseases in the United States.

Routine home and professional dental care are critical for all children. Parents of children with asthma do not need to be concerned about an increased risk of tooth decay but Dr. Maupomé points out that children who use nebulizers to control their asthma may be inadvertently increasing their frequency of exposure to sugars because these nebulizers use fructose to deliver therapy. The frequency and the amount of certain sugars consumed are major factors leading to cavities.

Dr. Maupomé also recommends that children who are mouth breathers or who have mouth dryness visit their dentist regularly for checkups. These conditions may be associated with asthma but they are also found in children who do not have asthma. Many medications used for the long term (such as asthma medications) have been found to reduce the amount of saliva, which is the first protection of teeth.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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For example, people suffering from certain respiratory diseases may be using anti-inflammatory medications, which means they can experience dry mouth, increase in plaque and gingivitis development, and be more susceptible to yeast and fungal infections.