Inflammation, Your Mouth and Your Life
Your dental health is no longer just about cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and your smile. Your dental health now is about how long you might live. Your dental health may add or subtract 10 years from your life.
The Dawson Academy, one of dentistry’s most prestigious advanced learning centers for dentistry, in cooperation with the Cleveland Clinic, recently established a top 5 list of things to maintain systemic health and live a longer life. The list includes exercising daily, avoiding tobacco use, managing stress in your life, eating healthy with an emphasis on less refined sugars, less processed foods, and lastly, maintaining healthy oral tissues with no inflammation.
Inflammation is at the root cause of many the chronic diseases of aging. Your mouth is a significant source of that same inflammation if you have gingivitis or periodontal disease. You can have these problems and not even know it. If left untreated, inflammation in your mouth can lead to other serious health problems. Systemic consequences from dental inflammation include cardiovascular disease including death, diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, preterm newborns, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, problems around surgery sites such as artificial joints and potentially bowel problems.
Gum inflammation occurs when microscopic bacteria, in the form of a biofilm, collect below the gumline. Left unchecked, this biofilm causes gingival inflammation. This biofilm must be removed with a two pronged approach. First, patients should have meticulous oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, and whatever other adjuncts are necessary to remove the biofilm and eliminate inflammation. If you have bleeding while cleaning your teeth, this is inflammation. Sometimes this is detectable, but more often it is not, without the help of a dental professional. Next, a dental professional is needed to examine you regularly, so that oral inflammation is kept to a minimum over your life span. Your dental visit should not be thought of as just getting your teeth cleaned. Rather, it should be an assessment, treatment and education, and training on keeping oral inflammation to a minimum.
While everyone has bacteria in their mouth, not everyone develops gingival inflammation. There are identifiable risk factors that make some people more susceptible to gingival inflammation. These risk factors include tobacco use, being overweight, diabetes, pregnancy, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. Post-menopausal females and immunocompromised patients are also at higher risk for gingival inflammation. If you have inflammation risk factors, it is even more important for you to partner with your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis to determine if any gum inflammation has developed, and then do what is necessary to eliminate it.