| The Oral Systemic Link
The May 2000 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Health states, "You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities."
Dental practitioners are in a unique position to recognize and address the early warning signs of a body out of balance.
The so-called lifestyle illnesses are increasingly linked in scientific research to an out-of-balance immune response.
Researchers are discovering the critical role that the body’s immune response plays in today’s top killers: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, colitis, Chrone’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Lewis Lanier, PhD, of the UCSF Department of Microbiology and Immunology states in his presentation Inflammation as Cause and Consequence of Disease that the goal of preventing these diseases is to maintain a balanced immune state, and to manage inflammation in the body.Cells in each system in our body are processing nutrients, generating energy, eliminating waste effectively, and communicating with nearby cells so all systems are functioning properly, and in coordination with related systems, in our own perfect state of wellness.
According to Dr. Lanier, healthy cells are able to ward-off attackers such as viruses, bacteria, or chemical irritants. Or, if damaged, the cells die-off, and new healthy cells take their place without much harm to surrounding cells. When cells don’t have sufficient nutrition, they are not able to defend themselves, and a signal is sent to the immune system. A powerful and aggressive series of chemical biological responses is engaged to support the cells in defending themselves.
Inflammation is the result of the body’s immune response to cells under attack.
Sometimes the immune system stays engaged long after the defense job is done. It starts to attack the body’s own healthy cells. In some cases it also points the immune-system attack-team to another system in the body that has a pre-disposed weakness identified in our DNA, such as the pancreas in the case of diabetes.
As our cells are attacked by our own immune system, they emit waste products that further damage neighboring cells. These waste products, called "free radicals,” reinforce the immune system attack, which damages more cells, creating more free radicals, and the cycle continues. Soon the body finds itself in a state of chronic systemic inflammation, under attack by its own immune response, and over-run with free-radicals.
What started in a few cells, suddenly affects an entire system, and ultimately can threaten our lives.
It is the systemic inflammatory response that researchers believe is at the foundation of lifestyle diseases.
Our body’s cells are bombarded constantly with potential immune response triggers. Stress, toxins in our environment, allergic reactions, certain foods, bacteria, viruses, and the simple natural process of cell aging and regeneration generate free radicals.
The key to maintaining wellness and preventing dis-ease is to keep our cells well nourished and supplied with anti-oxidants, chemical compounds which neutralize free radicals.
It’s also important to manage the body’s immune response, addressing an out-of-control inflammatory condition before it takes its toll.
The mouth is the window to the body's immune response.
In the dental profession, this connection is often referred to as the oral-systemic link.
Window to the chronic inflammatory response.
The body’s chronic internal inflammatory response is easily identifiable through examination of the periodontal tissue.
Swollen, bleeding gums are an indication that the body’s immune response is engaged and on the attack. Temporary bleeding or swelling may occur when we have a cold, or are under stress.
Regular assessments of periodontal tissue by an expert hygienist are the best way to ensure our body is not trapped in a chronic inflammatory state.
Window to systemic bacterial imbalance.
Likewise, when bacteria in the mouth become imbalanced, periodontal cells communicate to the need for an immune system attack. If the bacteria are not brought into balance, the periodontal tissue can become the site of chronic inflammation.
At the early stages this is called gingivitis, and at late stages it becomes a serious disease condition called periodontitis or periodontal disease. It is estimated that as much as 80% of the population may suffer from periodontal disease.
Left unmanaged, our body’s own immune system destroys the periodontal tissue and bones that hold our teeth in place.
The excessive bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream to predisposed systems in the body leading to chronic disease in other organ systems.
Wellness lifestyle dentistry engages the extensive knowledge of dental professionals in assessing the health of periodontal tissue as a window to overall health.
Using high tech innovations such as salivary diagnostics and laser cleansing technology, the dental professional is able to assess the severity of bacterial imbalance, calm the inflammatory response, and detoxify the periodontal tissue.
This benefits our oral well being, and also can protect predisposed systems.
Professional teeth cleanings are one of the most important steps we can take to
preserve total body wellness.
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to professional cleanings. Varying tools and technologies will be incorporated depending on the overall condition of your gums and total body health,
Professional cleanings may be needed more often than the one-size-fits-all six-month cleaning schedule that most people are familiar with.
|Tips for Maintaining Total Body Wellness Through Dentistry|
- Ask your dental professional for a salivary diagnostic test for your oral-bacterial balance.
- Make sure your hygienist does perio-charting at every appointment, know your results and use them to improve your home care.
- Be sure to eat foods, and take supplements that have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory effects.
- See your dental professional according to your recommended re-care schedule.
- Follow your hygienists' home care instructions.