Objectives We examined the potential association between prior chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and edentulism, and whether the association varied by COPD severity using data from the Dental Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Design Cross-sectional. Setting Community dwelling subjects from four US communities. Participants and measurements Cases were identified as edentulous (without teeth) and subjects with one or more natural teeth were identified as dentate. COPD cases were defined by spirometry measurements that showed the ratio of forced expiratory volume (1 s) to vital capacity to be less than 0.7. The severity of COPD cases was also determined using a modified Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease classification criteria (GOLD stage I–IV). Multiple logistic regression was used to examine the association between COPD and edentulism, while adjusting for age, gender, centre/race, ethnicity, education level, income, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure, body mass index, smoking, smokeless tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Results 13 465 participants were included in this analysis (2087 edentulous; 11 378 dentate). Approximately 28.3% of edentulous participants had prior COPD compared with 19.6% among dentate participants (p<0.0001). After adjustment for potential confounders, we observed a 1.3 (1.08 to 1.62) and 2.5 (1.68 to 3.63) fold increased risk of edentulism among GOLD II and GOLD III/IV COPD, respectively, as compared with the non-COPD/dentate referent. Given the short period of time between the measurements of COPD (visit 2) and dentate status (visit 4) relative to the natural history of both diseases, neither temporality nor insight as to the directionality of the association can be ascertained. Conclusions We found a statistically significant association between prior COPD and edentulism, with evidence of a positive incremental effect seen with increasing GOLD classification.