written by Jimmy Kilimitzoglou, DDS of e.s.i. Healthy Dentistry
When I was a kid, I remember not being the greatest brusher and certainly not using floss. Before I had to go to the dentist, I overzealously and enthusiastically attempted to be the poster child of the American Dental Association. A poor attempt to be the beacon of good oral hygiene. But, gums don’t lie. If you are not consistent with good oral hygiene practices, the inflammation around gums takes weeks to reverse. It’s like blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C levels. If you take your blood and test for glucose it will be a snapshot of what your blood sugar is right now. An A1C level, however will tell us if you were a good boy or girl for the past 3 months. Depending on the amount of gum inflammation, the location of it, the presence of spontaneous bleeding, the way the gums are attached to the teeth and even the color can reveal underlying disease not just in the mouth, but the rest of the body. Most often, gum inflammation is caused by bacteria.
Healthy gums are supposed to be coral pink, stippled and tight around teeth. They appear to be pink because they are highly vascularized with hundreds of fine blood vessels. In fact, if you unravel the gums that intimately hug our teeth, the part of gums that you cannot see visibly, it would render the surface area of the palm of your hand. If you measure the surface area of all gum tissue, lining of the cheeks, tongue, palate and floor of the mouth it would amount to the area of your whole arm. Naturally if you had an infection that covers your whole arm, you wouldn’t ignore it, would you? It gets better! Because of this highly vascularized nature of the mouth, bacteria get into the bloodstream faster. Think about this. If someone is having chest pain or a heart attack, where do we place the nitroglycerin tablets? That’s right, under the tongue. It dissolves quickly and gets into the bloodstream fast. Bacteria and toxins can enter the bloodstream just as fast. The mouth is the first portal into our digestive system. But indirectly, you can see how it can indirectly be a portal to the circulatory system. Many of us are mouth breathers. Therefore, it can also be a portal into our respiratory system. What about the immune system? We have minor and major lymph nodes in and around the mouth, head and neck area.
Diseases and conditions that are associated with periodontal disease are TIA’s (mini strokes), coronary heart disease, premature and low birthweight babies. In the elderly it can affect septicemia (blood infection), Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bronchitis and heart attacks. We have found that flossing reduces c reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation, and reduces risk for heart disease. There are autoimmune diseases that have oral manifestations such as Lyme’s disease, psoriasis, pemphigus and lichen planus. Our primary focus with health care is to prevent disease. The next level would be early detection and conservative treatment. Your mouth is saying a lot. Are you listening?
Oftentimes people see the mouth as an isolated area that has nothing to do with the rest of the body. I hope that now you can see that it is extremely important for overall health and how keeping your mouth healthy will, in turn, enhance and optimize your body and have it running at top levels.