Periodontal status and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations: a systematic review

Niamh Kelly, Lewis Winning, Christopher Irwin, Fionnuala T. Lundy, Dermot Linden, Lorcan McGarvey, Gerard J. Linden, Ikhlas A. El Karim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: A growing body of evidence suggests a role for oral bacteria in lung infections. This systematic review aimed to analyse the association between poor periodontal status and the frequency of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, CINAHL and Medline were searched for studies published until May 2020, with no language restriction. Studies reporting periodontal condition, or periodontal treatment outcomes, with data on the frequency of exacerbations of COPD, were identified. The primary outcome was the frequency of exacerbations and secondary outcomes included quality of life (QoL) and hospitalisation. Quality and risk of bias assessment were carried out using the Newcastle Ottawa Scale for observational studies, Robins-1 tool for non-randomised intervention studies and Cochrane risk of bias assessment (RoB-2) tool for randomised clinical trials. Studies were assessed for eligibility and quality by two assessors independently.

Results: Searches identified 532 records and 8 met the inclusion criteria. Included studies were three clinical trials, one prospective cohort study, one case–control, and three cross-sectional studies. A narrative synthesis was performed. The data from intervention studies showed reduction in the frequency of exacerbations following periodontal treatment. Data from observational studies suggest association of worse plaque scores and fewer teeth with exacerbation, but not pocket depth or clinical attachment loss. Better periodontal health was also associated with reduced frequency of COPD exacerbations, hospitalisations and improved quality of life in COPD patients. Due to the high heterogeneity no meta-analysis was performed. The quality of some of the included studies was low and there was evidence of a high risk of bias.

Conclusion: The data supports possible association between poor periodontal health, the frequency of exacerbations, hospitalisation and quality of life in COPD patients. The evidence is of moderate to low certainty and is limited by high risk of bias suggesting the need for well-designed and adequately powered randomised controlled trials, to inform future research and clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number425
JournalBMC Oral Health
Early online date03 Sep 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Sep 2021


  • Research
  • COPD
  • Exacerbation
  • Periodontal disease
  • Oral bacteria
  • Oral health


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