Submitted by Edilia Glenski, DMD, FAGD, owner of Definitive Dental Care
Inflammation is an immune response. It is the basic way that a body reacts to infection or injury. There may be redness, warmth, swelling and/or pain.
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. The bone loss caused by periodontal disease is caused by an auto-immune response of the body. In other words, your immune system attacks your bone in order to rid itself of the toxic material that the bacteria are pumping into your gums and bone.
Inflammation is also a recognized contributing factor in atherosclerosis – the buildup of fatty deposits in the inner lining of the arteries.
When inflammation is present, a protein in the blood (C-reactive protein or CRP) increases in concentration. CRP is produced by the liver. CRP testing is used for diagnosing systemic inflammation and has also been used to assess the risk for cardiovascular disease. Research has found that the higher the CRP level, the higher the chances of heart attack, sudden cardiac death and peripheral arterial disease. CRP testing is also useful for assessing auto-immune diseases, some forms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel and inflammatory pelvic disease.
The effect of periodontal inflammation on CRP is not currently published, but since periodontal disease is both inflammatory and auto-immune, there is a strong implication that it could contribute to a raised CRP which would then increase risk for other problems.
Oddly, some inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, do not always have raised CRP levels.
Although one of the more obvious signs of periodontal disease can be bad breath, this disease is not simply a social interaction handicap easily solved with breath spray or peppermint gum. The link between periodontal disease and other inflammatory diseases as well as stroke, heart disease and pancreatic cancer has been demonstrated and is known by the medical community.
To prevent periodontal disease, it is vital to see your dentist at least twice a year and receive preventive care. Once you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, you need to get treatment and follow-up care more frequently.
The types of bacteria that trigger the auto-immune response from the body like to live in deep, dark places (deep pockets) where oxygen is scarce. Treatment can consist of deep cleanings coupled with oxygen releasing solutions, which are flushed into the pockets to disrupt the bacterial colonies. Antibiotic gels can also be used to help keep the bacteria under control. The most important components of treatment have to do with home care and getting follow-up care at least quarterly.
Anyone who has heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disease, inflammatory disease or has a risk for cardio-vascular problems needs to be thoroughly examined for the presence of periodontal disease. Diagnosis is done with a full mouth series of X-rays and a probe measurement of six different spots on all of your existing teeth. Diseased gums will have probe readings of 4 millimeters or greater. The larger the probe readings, the more advanced the disease. If the disease is too far advanced, the affected teeth may need to be removed, so don’t wait that long. Call your dentist for an appointment today.
Glenski is owner of Definitive Dental Care in Palm Harbor, Fla. She has been practicing general and cosmetic dentistry since 1980 and is one of only eight dentists in the state of Florida accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Glenski is also a professor of anatomy and physiology at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
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