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Studies show that smokers have more severe periodontitis than nonsmokers. But this may not be due to smoking directly. Instead, tobacco smoke can increase inflammation in the mouth, which may promote the growth of bacteria that cause periodontitis. It’s not clear how smoking can lead to lung problems.

Though gum disease may not directly lead to lung disease, there is evidence to suggest that periodontitis can make you more likely to develop respiratory problems. According to research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, people with gum disease were nearly twice as likely to develop colds or flu as compared to those without the condition.

“One theory is that bacteria in the mouth form biofilms that stick to the gums and on the teeth and then enter the bloodstream,” says Dr Zainab. The bacteria can then colonize the airways and cause the inflammation that makes you sick.