Healthy Mouth Sounds- The Oral – Systemic Connection- Part 2
6.22.16 in General
So we think there may be a connection between oral health and systemic health. Well, what proof do we have of that? And by what mechanism does it occur?
Did you know that when we culture the bacterial organisms from plaques that cause heart attacks, we find that a high percentage of the bacteria originally came from the mouth? But what would the common thread be?
In a word…inflammation. It’s the new 2016 “buzz word”. Not because we want a new trend. It is because we now know some of the mechanisms of disease that we didn’t use to know.
Let me take you through the process of formation of a heart attack producing plaque, using the example of our own lipoproteins as the culprit. I know you are familiar with the measurements of blood lipids, in order to monitor cardiac risks. One of the entities we measure is low density lipoprotein, (LDL), also know as the “bad cholesterol.”
It is known as bad because it often is the lipid which, when attacked by free radicals, causes an inflammatory response. Though this is designed to happen that way in our bodies, that inflammatory response can cause damage. As LDL molecules get attacked by free radicals, our own white blood cells come to our rescue to clean up the mess. This inflammatory response takes place in the lining of our arteries, and eventually the pus, becomes fibrotic and scarred. Again, this is a normal response in our bodies. However, these fibrotic “plaques” begin to block the flow of blood, and when we add a blood clot “hanging up” on the blockage, we have the scenario for a heart attack.
So what, you may ask, does that have to do with oral health? The most common infectious disease known to man is dental caries. The most common cause of tooth loss in humans is periodontitis, or inflammation of the gums and bone. Both of these bacterial based disease processes cause a great deal of inflammation, and remember that we often culture organisms that live in the mouth, in our blood streams.
But how do mouth bacteria get to our heart? We have repeatedly been able to show an increase in bacteria in our blood, even after merely brushing our teeth. So, it is no stretch to conclude that the mouth bacteria we measure in coronary artery plaques, came from the mouth. Since we know that this process is an inflammatory one, the enemy to systemic health has become- inflammation. The Latin suffix meaning inflammation is, “itis.” So, anytime you hear a word ending in “itis”, know that inflammation is occurring.
Arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, periodontitis, all tell us that inflammation is occurring at some anatomical location.
Clearly it benefits us to minimize or eliminate inflammation from any area of our bodies. The good news is that we know how to achieve that in our mouths. So, stay tuned in, and keep smiling. DrW.