Good Oral Hygiene Is One Simple Way to Reduce Chronic Inflammation

8 minute read

Not long ago, a physician who suspected a heart disease condition would have ever considered sending the patient to a dentist. Times are changing, however, and there is a large amount of interest in the link between oral health and overall body health.

Recent studies have shown that 40% of people with gum disease are more likely to also suffer from a chronic health condition. This has prompted physicians to take a new, holistic approach to treating their patients.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease or periodontal disease covers various ailments, ranging from gingivitis (inflamed gums) to periodontitis which is where gums pull away from the teeth with can result in serious infection.

A number of signs that indicate gum disease are often ignored; bleeding when flossing, swollen gums, bad breath, sensitivity, and painful area when chewing. In fact, many people have gum disease and do not even realize it. With regular dental checkups, gum disease may be prevented or at least caught in time.

Your Mouth Is the Gateway

Bacterial build- up on your teeth can leave the gums vulnerable to infection. The immune system launches an attack on the bacteria, causing gum inflammation. If the infection is not controlled, the inflammation continues.

Over time, the chemical associated with the inflammatory response begin to eat away at the gums and bones below, resulting in periodontitis, the main cause of tooth decay and loss. The implications are not limited to your teeth but to your entire body.

Your mouth is not an isolated system. In fact, it is integrated into the immune system and is connected to several other body parts. Any infection or bacterial imbalance in the mouth can create immune problems and inflammation in other areas. Gum disease has been reported to increase the risk of breast, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, as well as heart disease, and stroke.  

| Related: Study: Bacteria In Food May Lead To Heart Disease And Stroke |

What happens in the gums unfortunately does not remain there. The bacterial infection has access to the whole body through the bloodstream. These pathogenic bugs are quite capable of moving out and colonizing elsewhere, essentially setting up another site for inflammatory attacks.

The plaques that are found in the mouth are the same as those found in arterial walls of heart disease patients, indicating how these bacteria like to travel.  

Once inside the mouth, bacteria are essentially behind enemy lines and can access anywhere in the body they want via our blood. Not only are you in danger from the infection and damage in your mouth, but you also face attack from your immune system as the bacteria make their way through the body. Any attack and the inflammatory response that follows can potentially damage healthy cells and tissues.

Your Body's Response

To fight off the infection in your mouth and gums, your immune system releases an inflammatory response. This increases the blood flow to the area and therefore, the number of white blood cells to fight the bacteria.  

Swollen painful gums are a sign of an active infection and the inflammatory response fighting it.  When the infection becomes chronic, so does the inflammation. This chronic inflammation becomes more dangerous as it spreads through the body as it sets the stage for serious illness like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis.  

Oral Health and Diabetes

The inflammation in the mouth weakens the body's ability to control blood sugar. Diabetics have difficulty processing sugar due to a lack of insulin. Inflammation interferes with the body's ability to utilize insulin, therefore making the condition worse.

High blood sugar supports perfect conditions for bacterial growth, showing that the two are closely linked. Managing one of the two situations will help get control over the other.

Oral Health and Heart Disease

Up to 91% of patients with heart disease also have periodontitis, showing that the two conditions go hand in hand. There are several risk factors that both have in common including smoking, unhealthy diet and excess weight.

The thought is that the inflammation in the mouth also causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Less blood can travel from the heart to the rest of the body which increases blood pressure.

| Related: The Inflammation Factor: The Heart of the Joint Health Matter |

Additionally, there is a greater risk that a fatty plaque can break away from blood vessel wall and travel to the brain or heart causing a stroke or heart attack.

Oral Health and Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, the number one cause of disability in Americans, is marked by chronic inflammation of the joints. Periodontitis and osteoarthritis have one important thing in common; the degeneration of cartilage.

While there is some controversy about the link between the two, it is thought that the inflammation caused by periodontitis triggers inflammation elsewhere and the subsequent weakening of connective tissue in other areas of the body.  

What You Can Do

You can improve your health by improving the condition of your mouth. You should now understand that your oral care is more important to your overall health than you first realized. By reducing your chances of developing gum disease you can also reduce the chances of your immune system launching a inflammatory attack that can end up spreading as your mouth bacteria spreads.  

Brushing and flossing regularly as well as using a mouth rinse can help remove bacteria from your mouth. Regular dental checkups and cleanings additionally support a healthy mouth and any problems can be identified early and corrected before any bacteria takes a more permanent hold.  

With lifestyle and dietary changes, you can support the ability of your immune system to address mouth bacteria more efficiently. Choose a mineral-rich diet to support oral health, limit or eliminate sugar, and use a supplement with boswellia serrata and an antioxidant, like astaxanthin, which are often combined in joint health supplements. Make necessary lifestyle changes to ensure you get enough rest and avoid stress, as well as bad habits like smoking.  

The Bottom Line

Your body is a complex machine composed of many interrelated parts. The health of one part will inevitably affect the health of another. The importance of the mouth is often overlooked.

When you understand the potential damage gum disease and poor oral health can have on the rest of your body, it doesn't get overlooked for long. Your mouth does more than just flash that pretty smile; it is the first line of defense, which needs to be supported with healthy habits and oral hygiene.

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