Inflammation and Periodontal Disease

Reduce Inflammation – Woman Flossing

Inflammation is the body’s instinctive reaction to fight off infection, guard against injury or shield against irritation. Acute cases of inflammation are easily identifiable, and are often characterized by swelling, redness, heat and pain around the affected area. While acute inflammation initially intends to heal the body, over time, if left untreated, it can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to dysfunction or destruction of the infected tissues, and potentially more severe health complications.

Most people know that maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a necessary step in achieving overall wellbeing. In fact, now not only dentists encourage brushing and flossing, but many physicians also promote oral hygiene as a way to help keep the rest of the body healthy. Several research studies have suggested that gum disease may be associated with other health issues, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And with more and more research reinforcing the connection between periodontal and systemic health, scientists are beginning to understand why these connections exist. One theory points to chronic inflammation as the culprit.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to harm, such as an injury or infection. For many years, dentists believed that gum disease developed as a result of a bacterial infection caused by the build-up of plaque between the teeth and under the gums. While plaque build-up is still a factor in the development and progression of gum disease, researchers now suspect that the more severe symptoms, namely swollen, bleeding gums; recession around the gum line, and loss of the bone that holds the teeth in place, may actually be caused by the chronic inflammatory response to the bacterial infection, rather than the bacteria itself.

Scientists hypothesize that the chronic inflammatory response mechanism may be the reason behind the periodontal-systemic health link. Many of the diseases associated with periodontal disease are also considered to be systemic inflammatory disorders, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease and even certain forms of cancer, suggesting that chronic inflammation itself may be the basis for the connection. More research is needed to pinpoint the precise biological mechanisms responsible for the relationship between gum disease and other disease states. However, since previous findings have indicated that gum disease sufferers are at a higher risk for other diseases, it is critical to maintain periodontal health in an effort to achieve overall health. Dentists recommend daily oral care, including regular brushing and flossing, and routine visits to the dentist to avoid gum disease. If gum disease develops, consultation with a dental professional such as a periodontist can lead to effective treatment. A periodontist is a dentist with three years of additional specialized training in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. For more information on the role of inflammation in oral health, tips on how to prevent or treat gum disease, to find out if you are at risk, contact us for an appointment and a comprehensive periodontal evaluation.

How to Reduce Inflammation at Home

Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the supporting bone and tissues around the teeth. The inflammatory reaction is your body’s way of removing the toxins released by bacteria that live on your teeth and gums. However, when the inflammation lasts for too long or is too strong, it starts to break down the tissues around your teeth, including your gums and supporting bone. This may cause teeth to become loose and even fall out. Unfortunately, inflammation doesn’t only occur in your mouth. Several other serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by the same chronic inflammation that causes periodontal disease. The good news is that your dental professional can help you reduce the inflammation in your mouth as a result of periodontal disease through treatments such as scaling and root planing. But you can also help to reduce the inflammation in your mouth and even in your entire body right at home.

Here are a few things you can try:

Click on the topic below to expand the box and learn more.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, herring, or sardines) and walnuts, have been shown to reduce inflammation. Green tea, which also contains antioxidants, has been shown to reduce the risk of gum disease and cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that our bodies cannot make by themselves. Therefore, omega-3s must come from the things we eat, which is why it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Omega-3s are vital for metabolism and brain function and also help to reduce inflammation in the body. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help treat or prevent several conditions other than periodontal disease, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, talk to your health or dental professional before taking omega-3 supplements to make sure they’re right for you.

People who maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly have been shown to have lower incidences of periodontal disease than those who do not exercise regularly. Moderate exercise may also help reduce inflammation in your body, but extreme exercise (running a marathon, for example) can actually increase systemic inflammation. It’s a good idea to discuss your exercise plan with a health professional to ensure that it’s a good fit for your lifestyle.

When you brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day, you remove the bacteria on your teeth and gums that causes the inflammatory response that leads to gum disease. Therefore, it’s important to take care of your teeth every day by brushing and flossing, and don’t forget to see your dental professional for regular cleanings and check ups, including a yearly comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE).

For some people, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought of a trip to the dentist. Even scarier for some is the prospect of replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant. However, as dental implants grow in popularity as a permanent solution to tooth loss, it is time to put nervous minds at ease.

A recent survey conducted informally by the American Academy of Periodontology asked periodontal patients what factors stopped them from getting a dental implant. The second most popular answer given by respondents was “fear” or “anxiety”. However, the same survey also revealed that of those patients who had previously received a dental implant, more than half reported “very little to no pain or discomfort” experienced during the process and only 33% described the procedure as “somewhat painful or uncomfortable”. Not only did dental implant patients report little to no pain, they also reported extreme satisfaction with the outcomes of the procedure. Over 70% of the survey respondents reported being “pleased” or “extremely satisfied” with the results of their new dental implants. Not only can you put your mind at ease about the pain of getting a dental implant, you can also look forward to the pleasing results!

These survey results help demonstrate that although dental implant procedures illicit fear or anxiety in potential patients, the reality is that the actual experience is not something to be frightened of.

Why is everyone so afraid of procedures such as dental implants?

Perhaps fearing the dentist and certain dental procedures is something that is ingrained in our minds from a young age. Perhaps it is the result of ongoing, perpetuated stereotypes. Regardless of the cause, it is important to find ways to “unlearn” this fear, especially if your dental professional recommends a dental implant as the best course of treatment. Seeing a dental professional regularly and trusting his or her advice will help you to best maintain your oral health and minimize expense, time, and discomfort.

If you decide to get a dental implant and are feeling anxious or fearful, find ways to feel more in control of your experience by:

  • Asking your periodontist to explain the procedure. Knowing exactly what will occur when the dental implant is placed can help put your mind at ease.
  • Having your periodontist explain your options for techniques to control pain and stress, such as medications, anesthesia, sedation, or relaxation techniques that can make your treatment virtually painless.