The relationship between oral health and COPD exacerbations

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2019 Apr 23;14:881-892. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S194991. eCollection 2019.


Introduction: Poor oral health has been implicated as an independent risk factor for the development of COPD, but few studies have evaluated the association between oral health and COPD exacerbations. We aimed to determine if poor oral health is associated with COPD exacerbations and/or worse respiratory health. Methods: We performed a case-control study of oral health among COPD exacerbators and non-exacerbators. Cases (exacerbators) had experienced ≥1 exacerbation in the previous 12 months, while controls (non-exacerbators) had no exacerbations in the previous 24 months. We excluded those with <4 teeth. We evaluated the global oral health assessment, Oral Health Impact Profile (OHIP-5), dental symptoms/habits, and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ). In a subset, we performed blinded dental exams to measure bleeding on probing, probing depth, clinical attachment loss, periodontitis severity, plaque index, gingival index, and carries risk. We evaluated associations between oral health and COPD exacerbations using logistic regression. Linear regression was used to assess relationships between oral health and SGRQ scores. Results: Screened non-exacerbators (n=118) were significantly more likely to have <4 teeth, compared to screened exacerbators (n=100) (44% vs 30%, respectively; p=0.046). After excluding those with <4 teeth, there were 70 cases and 66 controls. Self-reported oral health and objective dental exam measures did not vary significantly between cases vs controls. However, the odds of severe COPD exacerbations requiring hospitalizations and/or emergency department visits trended higher in those with worse dental exam compared to those with better dental exam. Worse OHIP-5 was strongly associated with worse SGRQ scores. Conclusions: Oral health status was not related to COPD exacerbations, but was associated with self-reported respiratory health. Non-exacerbators were more likely to be edentate or have ≤4 teeth compared to exacerbators. Larger studies are needed to address oral health as a potential method to improve respiratory health in patients with COPD.

Keywords: chronic obstructive; oral health; periodontitis; pulmonary disease.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Aged
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth, Edentulous / complications
  • Oral Health*
  • Periodontal Diseases / complications*
  • Periodontal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Bronchodilator Agents