Science & Articles >> HEALTH EDUCATION

How your oral microbiome influences respiratory health

Your oral cavity is the gateway to the body & its first line of defense, but it can harbor pathogens that impact your respiratory health. Find out how.

Oral health has been linked to Diabetes [1], cardiovascular disease [2], and even Alzheimer’s Disease [3]. With these links between oral, heart, and brain health, one may wonder whether there is a connection between oral and respiratory health as well. This is a great question. Let’s investigate!

How can oral microbial health affect immunity?

The oral cavity is comprised of over 700 species of bacteria including fungi, and protozoa, all of which comprise the oral microbiome [4]. The oral microbiome plays a major role in maintaining oral and systemic health and has good bacteria that fight bad bacteria. When the balance of the oral microbiome is thrown off and there is a bacterial overgrowth, it sets off an immune response in the body, and depending on the bacterial load, the body may succumb to the invaders and catch a cold, cough, or worse, a disease. When cold and flu season comes around, people rarely think to pick up their toothbrushes to prevent getting sick, but the oral cavity is the body’s first line of defense.

How does the oral microbiome relate to respiratory health?

There is a strong correlation between oral and respiratory health as the oral cavity is a direct passage to the respiratory tract. If there is an obstruction of the airway, it can lead to mouth breathing which has a major effect on oral health. People who are mouth breathers are more likely to clench and grind their teeth, get tonsil infections, and experience myofascial pain [5]. Another link between oral and respiratory health one may not suspect is Pneumonia. Pneumonia is common and is an infection that causes inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs [6]. Research has shown that dental plaque serves as a reservoir of pathogens as the bacteria bypass the oral cavity to get to the lungs [6].


Does asthma have a negative effect on oral health?

There is also a strong correlation between oral health and asthma. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that constricts the airways causing the production of excess mucus which makes breathing difficult [7]. People with asthma often rely on medications that negatively impact the oral cavity, including dry mouth, and increased susceptibility to periodontal disease and cavities [7]. Dry mouth wreaks havoc on the oral cavity and is further exacerbated by the fact that people with asthma are also more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux [7]. With a decrease in salivary flow, people with asthma have no bacteria to cleanse or neutralize the oral cavity. When they experience GI upset due to their reflux, the pH of their oral cavity drops significantly resulting in an acidic environment that is ideal for bacteria and pathogens to thrive.

Oral health is linked to all modes of systemic health from cardiovascular health to nervous and respiratory health. One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to keep your teeth clean so no bacteria can pass into the body. The oral cavity is the gateway to the rest of the body and serves as the first line of defense in maintaining total health and wellness.

Esmy Ornelas

Esmy Ornelas is a registered Dental Hygienist, writer, educator, and consultant with 10 years of experience in dentistry. She is passionate about education, empowering hygienists to advance their careers in and out of the operatory, and about community. She has written for RDH Magazine, the RDH Graduate, and is a full-time professor of Dental Hygiene and Assisting at Rose State College in Oklahoma.

  1. Carramolino-Cuéllar, E., Tomás, I., & Jiménez-Soriano, Y. (2014). Relationship between the oral cavity and cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome. Medicina oral, patologia oral y cirugia bucal, 19(3), e289–e294.
  2. Deo, P. N., & Deshmukh, R. (2019). Oral microbiome: Unveiling the fundamentals. Journal of oral and maxillofacial pathology : JOMFP, 23(1), 122–128.
  3. Gao, S. S., Chu, C. H., & Young, F. Y. F. (2020). Oral Health and Care for Elderly People with Alzheimer’s Disease. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(16), 5713.
  4. Sumi, Y., Miura, H., Michiwaki, Y., Nagaosa, S., & Nagaya, M. (2007). Colonization of dental plaque by respiratory pathogens in dependent elderly. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics, 44(2), 119–124.
  5. Tamkin J. (2020). Impact of airway dysfunction on dental health. Bioinformation, 16(1), 26–29.
  6. Thomas, M. S., Parolia, A., Kundabala, M., & Vikram, M. (2010). Asthma and oral health: a review. Australian dental journal, 55(2), 128–133.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Diabetes & oral health. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Retrieved January 21, 2023, from



What can I expect for the future?
Who should I invite to the RDHC community?
I know my member profile connects to my public profile. What info is visible to the public?
Can I share my RDHC Profile?
What are the benefits of being an RDHC member?
How will I get paid?
How does the RDHC commission compare to other ambassador programs for RDHs?
What if someone makes a purchase through my storefront that I didn’t refer?
Will my friends get discounts?
How much commission will I earn?
How are my sales tracked?
How do I earn commissions?
Do I have to be approved to recommend products?
Will my articles automatically appear on my public profile?
What does it mean to be an RDHC Member?
Am I eligible to publish an article for RDHC?
What if I have a question or a suggestion?
Why does RDHC collect so much information at signup?
Can I invite fellow hygienists to RDHC?
Who is eligible to be an RDHC member?
What is my public RDHC profile for?
How is Smile Brilliant related to RDH Connect?
What does it mean to be an RDHC Member?
What is RDH Connect?