Researchers Uncover What Links Oral and Overall Health
If you need to see a periodontist for pocket depth reduction in Portland, there’s a good chance you already know about the dangers gum disease can present to your oral health. You may also know, whether from Dr. Goldwyn or your general dentist, that gum disease can negatively impact your overall health as well.
Decades worth of research has found startling connections between an individual’s oral and overall health. Patients who’ve experienced gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer. While researchers have well established this connection, the mechanism that links our oral and overall health remained a mystery – until now.
New research has uncovered how gum disease might cause the further development of inflammation throughout the body. The results of this study help to explain the link between gum disease and several other conditions that are caused by excessive inflammation.
Gum Disease a Serious Threat
For patients with gum disease, harmful oral bacteria found in plaque provoke an attack by the body’s immune system. This in turn triggers inflammation to develop, which eventually leads to the erosion of the soft tissues and underlying bone structure that hold our teeth into position. If you’ve undergone treatment for pocket depth reduction in Portland, you know that late stage gum disease can also cause tissue to pull away from the base of your teeth. When gum disease is allowed to progress, gum pockets and jaw bone erosion lead to permanent tooth loss.
That’s just what gum disease does to your oral health. The mechanism that connects gum disease to the list of additional health problems we mentioned earlier makes your oral health incredibly important. Unfortunately, half of all adults in the U.S. 30 and older have developed some form of gum disease. This places the health of millions of people at risk due to the severe complications the disease can cause.
Until now, however, the mechanism behind that connection was inconclusive. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Toronto have found that gum disease stimulates blood cells called neutrophils, which then overact to the presence of infection in other parts of the body.
The neutrophils, which are part of the body’s natural defenses against disease, release signaling molecules called cytokines that cause inflammation in the body to become worse.
“It is almost as if these white blood cells are in second gear when they should be in first,” writes the study’s lead author, Prof. Michael Glogauer. “The neutrophils are much more likely to release cytokine more quickly, leading to negative outcomes.”
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Dental Research.
Uncovering the Connection
In their study, researchers induced gum disease in mice. Once the mice had developed gum disease, it led to a proliferation of neutrophils in their bone marrow, suggesting a widespread immune response.
In contrast, mice with peritonitis, an infection of the membrane that lines the abdomen, showed increased numbers of neutrophils in their blood. However, mice that already had gum disease when they developed peritonitis had a dramatically higher number of neutrophils. After more investigation, the research team found that neutrophils from animals with gum disease had molecular markers in their outer membranes that indicated they were likely to cause increased inflammation.
To discover whether similar immune changes occur in people, the team asked volunteers not to brush or floss their teeth for a three-week period. Not brushing allowed plaque to buildup and the participants all developed early stage gum disease, also known as gingivitis. When researchers analyzed blood samples from the participants, they discovered neutrophils that were ready to cause inflammation, just like those discovered in the test mice.
Once the participants started to brush and floss like usual, the levels of neutrophils in their blood returned to normal levels.
“Together, these results demonstrate that periodontal tissue has systemic effects that predispose toward an exacerbated innate immune response. This indicates that neutrophils can respond synergistically to simultaneous and remote inflammatory triggers and therefore contribute to the interaction between gum disease and other inflammatory conditions,” concluded the research team.
Your Oral Health Matters
With the connection between gum disease and systemic health problems finally uncovered, there can be no question about the important role your oral health plays in determining your overall health. Brushing and flossing daily, along with receiving regular preventative dental care, will not only help you avoid needing see a periodontist for pocket depth reduction in Portland, it might also help to save your life.