Early respiratory tract infections may expose permanent teeth to caries

Respiratory tract infections in early childhood may increase tooth decay i.e. caries in permanent teeth.  The association was found in a study conducted at the University of Oulu, Finland. Lower respiratory tract infections, such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia, leading to hospitalization before the age of two years increased the number of filled teeth in young adulthood on average by one and a half, compared to those without any such infections. Those who had had plenty of upper respiratory tract infections, such as common colds and recurrent middle ear infections, had on average one more filled teeth than the others.

These findings suggest that respiratory infections experienced during the developing time of permanent teeth i.e. before they appear in the oral cavity, may expose teeth to later caries. Early respiratory infections have previously been reported to be associated with childhood caries, but the relation between infections and caries in permanent teeth is a novel finding.

The study was conducted by the researchers of The Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research (CERH), University of Oulu. The study is part of the Espoo Cohort Study, established in year 1989, which is funded by Academy of Finland and Finnish ministries. The Espoo Cohort Study consists of more than 2,500 children who lived in the city of Espoo, Finland during their early childhood.

The research results were published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on December 9th, 2016.

More information:
Jouni J. K. Jaakkola, Professor of Public Health and Director of the Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research (CERH), University of Oulu.
Email: jouni.jaakkola@oulu.fi, mobile: +358 40 672 0927.

Research article:
Rantala AK, Mehtonen IT, Jaakkola MS, Näyhä S, Hugg TT, Jaakkola JJK. Early Respiratory Infections and Dental Caries in the First 27 years of Life: A Population-Based Cohort Study. PLOS ONE 2016;11(12):e0168141.

Last updated: 3.1.2017