How Flossing Teeth Can Prevent Lung Disease

Floss your way to a clean bill of health.

How Flossing Teeth Can Prevent Lung Disease

Any way you like it—unwaxed or extra slippery, minty or plain—make a daily date with your dental floss. This fast, cheap investment in good health (and good breath!) just got even better for you with the news that preventing gum disease (a top payoff of flossing) helps you sidestep serious lung problems. As in pneumonia, and that scary mouthful, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

How does it happen? Basically, bacteria from a gum infection can easily slip from your mouth into your airways when you inhale. And the warm, moist conditions in your lungs are the perfect breeding ground for trouble.

Gum disease is way more common than you might think. Half of all adults have gingivitis, an early stage marked by red, swollen, bleeding gums. One in 12 adults has periodontitis, chronic gum inflammation and infection. Diabetes, smoking, chronic stress, pregnancy, menopause, nighttime teeth-grinding, genetics, and aging all make gum trouble much more likely.

But the main culprit is plaque, that gooey, colorless mix of food particles, saliva, and bacteria that clings to teeth. Plaque buildups are preventable. Brushing helps, but it takes flossing to whisk it away from below the gum line, where disease starts, and, yep, regular trips to your dentist for cleaning and troubleshooting. Grit your teeth and dial your dentist. Your gums, lungs, and dental hygienist will love you, and your hospital will feel lonesome. America's budget deficit will decline. And all because you flossed.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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