Parkview Dental Care - David Bertagna, DDS
The human body is, by far, the most amazing machine ever created! A basic definition of a machine is a constructed thing, a highly organized or designed assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy. In other words, our bodies can do unbelievable things! The most amazing thing that the human body can do is repair itself. No man-made machine can do this.
The repair process begins with what in medicine is called inflammation. It is part of a complex biological response of body tissues to harmful bacteria and viruses, damaged cells such as cancer, and irritants like pollen or food allergies. It is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and special chemicals found in every cell of our body.
Inflammation can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the initial response of the body to a harmful situation. Prolonged inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, leads to the simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue affected originally.
One of the special chemicals associated with inflammation is called C-Reactive Protein (CRP). This chemical is produced when body cells begin to die or are destroyed by bacteria and viruses. CRP is the most effective indicator of inflammation that can be easily measured.
Periodontal disease is a plaque induced inflammatory response associated with the gingiva or gums, and the bone that surrounds the teeth. Plaque is the natural combination of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. Periodontal disease ranges from the mildest stage, known as gingivitis, to the most severe stage, known as periodontitis.
While in some individuals, gingivitis never progresses to periodontitis, periodontitis is always preceded by gingivitis. Interestingly, there is a direct relationship between periodontal disease and conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
It is believed that the inflammation from gingivitis and consequently, periodontitis, raises the level of CRP to cause changes in the blood vessels, heart tissue, and cells of the pancreas that control blood sugar. Studies have shown that the most common strain of bacteria found in dental plaque may cause blood clots, which may result in increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other illnesses.
Periodontal disease affects more people than all other diseases combined. The reason it is not as well known, is because the disease does not typically result in death. This disease is associated with loss of teeth and the bone that surrounds the teeth. But as has been discussed, it does lead to an increased risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.
The most amazing fact concerning this disease, is that it is totally controllable. Gingivitis can be controlled and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. The more severe form, periodontitis, can be treated successfully, but may need more extensive treatment.
Such treatment would include deep cleaning of the tooth root surfaces below the gums. Medications that can be placed directly under the gums or taken by mouth can also be used. Sometimes corrective surgery must be implemented to stop the progression of the disease.
It has been said that heart disease is a silent killer. But maybe it is really periodontal disease. Good oral hygiene, which includes flossing, as well as seeing the dentist regularly, is surely a safe way to keep our amazing 'machines' healthy and happy!