The Connection Between Gum Health and our Immune System
There has been a lot of speculation in the medical and dental field about the cause and effects of chronic conditions. After all, America is going through its own healthcare crisis. This is why most medical professionals try to examine healthcare in regards to affordability, availability, and awareness. With all of these things being under examination, some new revelations about health have come to the surface. Including the connection between oral bacteria and heart disease. But how does something like periodontal disease effect a completely different part of the body? Let’s find out.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a very common condition in which the gum line goes through constant inflammation. The European Federation of Periodontology, explains what it is further. ” Periodontal bacteria causes local inflammation. Although these periodontal bacteria are naturally present in the mouth, they are only harmful when the conditions are right for them to increase dramatically in numbers. This happens when a layer of bacteria and food debris, known as plaque, builds up. You can commonly find plaque in hard-to-reach areas such as between the teeth. Or, you can find it in places where plaque has been left alone for long periods of time.”
So, all that is needed to cause any stage of periodontal disease is the presence of natural bacteria, food, and time. Something that every human being has or needs to survive. But if it is a natural process that happens on our teeth, why is it a problem? Short of blunt force trauma, periodontal disease is the main cause of tooth loss. If nothing stops the progress of periodontal inflammation, the supporting structures of the teeth, including the jaw bone will be destroyed.
That is why we do what we can to halt the spread of gum disease by brushing and flossing our teeth. When we decrease the chances of long term bacterial contact with our teeth, plaque does not build up. And when plaque does not build up- there is little opportunity for periodontal bacteria to make its way down the gumline.
So, now that we know what it is, that leaves another question to be answered. Why is something like bacteria in our teeth responsible for something like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis?
The Purpose of Inflammation
Whenever we hear that something is inflamed, we associate it with something unpleasant. Anyone with arthritis or any other inflammatory conditions dread hearing about it. But our bodies need it to function. Inflammation is when our white blood cells protect us from infection or foreign invaders. Everybody goes through some period of inflammation at some point in their lives through injury or the presence of disease. Signs of inflammation include swelling, redness, and pain around any affected area. It is when inflammation happens excessively where things start to become dangerous.
When our white blood cells can’t take out the growing bacteria in an area, or accidentally misreads something normal as an invader, chronic inflammation occurs. That means that these white blood cells will attack nonstop. And if your body constantly acts like everything is an emergency, even if the danger has long since passed, then it starts to wear down. “Inflammatory diseases share a common diagnostic and prognostic definition if they remain active: aberrant and uncontrolled inflammation of the target tissues and incurable progressive outcomes. The severity of the inflammatory pathological condition for the human’s life depends on the affected tissues or organ system. “
So, when there is chronic inflammation in response to periodontal bacteria, our cells could overwork, die and leave debris behind, and ultimately cause never-ending pain and swelling until the body deems the threat mitigated.
The picture is starting to become clearer. But what connects the gumline to the rest of the body?
Our Circulatory System
All of it is connected through the bloodstream. Our organs, tissues, bone, and even gums rely on a steady supply of blood. Without it, our bodies would not get a steady stream of oxygen. It would also not have any access to the immune system. Diabetes, arthritis, coronary artery disease, and even gum disease all have inflammation in common. All it takes is for one part to get an infection that causes inflammation. The rest is carried throughout the bloodstream.
That is why it is very important to keep periodontal disease at bay. When your gums get inflammation, there is a good chance the rest of the body will start to get it too.