Did you know that oral infections up-regulate several systemic inflammatory reactions that, in turn, play a role in the development of systemic diseases? Multiple studies around the world have investigated the association between oral health and autoimmune diseases. Experts have concluded that poor oral health significantly exacerbates the incidence of autoimmune diseases. How can modern, minimally invasive, biomimetic dentistry identify and resolve oral infections that may be adding to the cause of many chronic conditions?
Oral infection predisposes patients to systemic disease. Patients with periodontal disease create immune cells that are inflammation biased. This leads to chronic inflammation beyond the oral cavity. As this cycle continues, there is progressive tissue breakdown and diminished tissue repair capacity. Gum tissues are frequently challenged by bacterial biofilms and are subjected to this phenomenon. As periodontitis progresses, these elevated pro inflammatory mediators and cytokines contribute to systemic disease. They produce an insulin resistance. This is how periodontitis can trigger and exacerbate diabetes.
Periodontal disease affects 1 out of 4 diabetic patients. Poor blood glucose control increases the risk of gum disease and vice versa. Serious gum disease can cause blood glucose to rise. Diabetics who are not well controlled are more prone to poor wound healing, higher risk of infection, problems tasting food and less salivary flow. This makes them more susceptible to cavities, and inflamed and bleeding gums. It’s a vicious cycle and patients end up with loose teeth, mouth sores, bad breath, white patches in the mouth and a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth.
We have more bacteria in our mouth than people on the planet. These bacteria can be an environmental cause of autoimmune diseases including lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, arthritis, diabetes and pemphigus. Autoimmune disorders are diseases where the immune system turns against itself. It becomes confused or unbalanced. There is a genetic component where there are mutations of the DNA and this phenomenon can predispose one to the disease.
However, they do require an environmental trigger. Without the trigger, the disease can stay dormant. Therefore genetic testing and microbiology can be used to diagnose and treat patients early so that we can avoid triggering these diseases in the first place. Who knew that brushing, flossing and seeing the dentist regularly could prevent autoimmune diseases from occurring?
Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis are examples of autoimmune diseases. There is a strong link between periodontal disease and Crohn’s disease. When people have uncontrolled periodontitis they have inflammation that travels all over the body. This exacerbates the GI issues in a patient with Crohn’s and they have flare ups. Inversely, the Crohn’s disease interferes with normal absorption of nutrients and patients don’t get calcium and vitamin D to maintain normal bone health. This translates into continued bone loss and gum tissue degeneration in the mouth. Nutrient deficiency makes periodontal disease worse because of collagen breakdown and biome imbalance.
White spots on teeth, geographic tongue and periodontitis can be indicators of underlying Crohn’s disease.
When providing oral health care it is important to take all of these issues into consideration. Optimal nutrition is paramount not only for the GI system but for good oral health. I cannot stress enough how vital it is to have a customized prevention plan for your oral optimization. Keep smiling, stay healthy, and be happy!!!