The Oral Health-Body Health Connection
So how is this possible? Inflammation is your body’s normal response to injury. If you cut yourself, for instance, your inflammatory response activates a reparative process that allows our body to rid itself of invading bacteria and heal itself. But when the inflammation is chronic and long-term that’s when the same response begins to hurt the body. Have you brushed your teeth and found blood on the brush or in the sink? Although you hope it is normal it is not. If you were to brush your hair and have the same bleeding you’d probably be in to see your physician ASAP. Your dental team has probably told you to brush and floss, and you’re not really good at doing either every day. The bacteria builds up around the teeth and gums causing an infection, and that’s why you have the bleeding. You should brush and floss that area regularly so that it can heal, but the bleeding often scares people from doing the right thing and they brush and floss even less. As the bacteria works its way down into the gums and bone they begin to release waste by-products which produce the infection. Your body fights back with an inflammatory response to rid itself of the bacteria, and in some long-term cases the body will actually destroy the bone around the tooth rather than have a chronic invasion of bacteria. If this reaction does not resolve itself specific inflammatory molecules produced in response to the local infection travel through the body’s general circulation and activate the liver to produce what are called C-reactive proteins. These C-reactive proteins are actually very good indicators of an infection in the body, but they also have a deleterious effect long-term on the other parts of the body. Doctors can now measure C-reactive proteins and like your cholesterol determine if the levels are normal or not. Higher C-reactive protein levels suggest not only inflammation somewhere in the body, but is also a predictor of other possible problems, such as, a heart problem.
It is important that physicians and dentists work together to educate their patients about the risks of chronic infections, how to prevent them and how to treat them. Prevention is the most comfortable way for us to treat disease both physically and financially. Physicians need to refer their patients with possible oral inflammation to their dentist to assess and pro-actively treat chronic gingivitis, bleeding gums, and periodontitis, infections of the bone, to control other systemic disease. And, in turn, dentists need to refer their patients with long-standing inflammation to their physicians for monitoring and/or treatment. More such tests are becoming available to dentists to screen for systemic inflammation so that the dentists can better work with their physician colleagues to co-manage their patients’ health care.
Ultimately, the good news is that by working with your physician to monitor your systemic health, and with your dental team to prevent or rid your mouth of the inflammatory disease process you can possibly prevent life-threatening ailments, and live a longer, healthier life.
At Bishou Dentistry in Las Vegas we are making a concerted effort to inform the public and other healthcare professionals about the strong correlation between your body’s health and how it relates to the health of your mouth. For a complimentary consultation please call 702.823.5793.