The link between dental infection, inflammation, and your overall health.
People are generally aware of the importance of caring for their teeth. You probably have memories of your parents telling you to brush your teeth before you go to bed. Modern research is broadening our view of dental infection and inflammation. Infection and inflammation connected with gum disease play a significant role in your body’s overall health.
What Causes Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself. In the case of a dental infection, bacteria cause damage to the cells of your gums. The damaged cells release chemicals that cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. This process works to keep the bacteria from spreading. These chemicals also signal to the body to send white blood cells to fight off the infection.
Here are signs of gum disease:
- Swollen or puffy gums.
- Bright red, dusky red, or purplish gums.
- Gums that feel tender when touched.
- Gums that easily bleed.
- Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing.
- Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth.
- Bad breath.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
When gum disease is in its early stage, we refer to this as gingivitis. Gingivitis is reversible with proper care from your dentist and at-home care. However, when the condition becomes chronic and severe, we refer to it as periodontitis. This severe stage of gum disease can cause tooth and jawbone loss.
Can a Tooth Infection Affect Other Parts of Your Body?
Medical research has linked dental infection and inflammation to other health issues of the body. National Institute of Health published a study which concluded:
Oral health has a direct and or indirect impact on overall general health.
An infection of the gums can spread to other parts of the body through your bloodstream. As covered above, the infection can spread to your jawbone. But it can also spread to your neck and head and, in rare cases, cause an abscess in the brain, which can be fatal.
Research from Harvard found that people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or another serious cardiovascular event.
Additionally, researchers have found that poor oral hygiene and gum disease have influenced pulmonary infections.
We understand that more research is needed to find the exact links to oral infection and inflammation to other parts of the body. But one thing is clear, what research has uncovered so far heightens the importance of good oral hygiene.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
It can be pretty scary to consider that gum disease can so dramatically affect other parts of your body. But you have tackled the first point of prevention by getting yourself informed. And, there are many things you can do to prevent gum disease and protect yourself.
- Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once a day (with regular floss or a water flosser).
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months or whenever the bristles are frayed.
- Eat healthily and limit sugar and between-meal snacks.
- Ask us about Perio Protect — a non-invasive therapy for gum disease.
- Schedule your regular checkup and professional cleaning.
Taking care of your teeth should take a high priority on your daily “To-Do” list in addition to keeping your regular checkups and dental cleanings. After all, your dental health plays an important role in your overall body’s health!
Drs. Tyler Christensen and Ashley Anderson
Christensen Dental, Henderson, NV