Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Our white blood cells recognizing and responding to the bacteria cause the damage in the mouth and to our body.1
There are over 700 different bacteria that can gather around our teeth.4 If not removed in twenty-four hours, they group together, lay a protective hard covering over themselves called a biofilm, commonly known as plaque.1 The body’s white blood cells recognize specific bacteria and send a message (cytokines) to the white blood cells in the gum blood vessels around the teeth This is the start of inflammation in the mouth. The white blood cells receive the message, migrate through the blood vessel walls to attack the bacteria on the teeth. The white blood cells consume the bacteria and secrete a toxic substance to kill the bacteria. The secreted substance not only kills the bacteria but also harms the gum tissue in the mouth. The damage done by the white blood cells (immune system) is known as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can be diagnosed by a dentist or hygienist by probing the pockets (sulcus) around the teeth. If bleeding occurs during probing, inflammation is present.
Inflammation in the mouth is bad:
- If your gums are inflamed, bacteria can enter the blood vessel around the teeth. Once in the bloodstream, bacteria travel throughout the body. Oral bacteria can cause seemly unrelated problems. Bacteria from the mouth have entered the uterus and killed the unborn baby of a pregnant mother5. Bacteria found in the clots of heart attack patients, matches the bacteria from the mouth of the patient.2 Bacteria from the mouth also may be a contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.3
- Inflammation in the mouth is not localized in the mouth but is part of systemic inflammation in the body. Inflammation allows various products (cholesterol, white blood cells, etc.) to enter the walls of the arteries and forms plaques, leading to thickening of the artery walls. Over time the hardening of the arteries can cause strokes, heart attacks, etc.2 In short, inflammation in the mouth can shorten your life.
How do we prevent periodontal diseases from occurring?
- The crevice or sulcus around the teeth need to be measured by a dentist or hygienist for depths greater than 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets 3 mm or less are normal. Pockets deeper than 4 mm need to be treated. Bleeding of the gums while probing indicates inflammation is present.1
- Home care procedures needs to be established for removal of the bacteria that is causing the inflammation. Home care of the mouth needs to be done morning and before going to bed at night. A mouth rinse that will kill the bacteria should be used several times per week. It should have a pH that is above 7.
Summary: The cause of inflammation should be treated, and a home care of the mouth established that aids in removing the bacteria that cause inflammation.