How Periodontal Germs Trick Your Immune System

looking sickDid you know that periodontal disease, or gum disease, is self-inflicted? It usually develops when bacteria overwhelm your teeth and gums. What may surprise you, however, is that the infection itself isn’t the most destructive aspect of periodontal disease. On the contrary, it’s your immune system’s exaggerated inflammatory response to mouth germs that does much of the damage.

Blame the Oral-Systemic Connection

The oral-systemic connection describes the complex relationship between your oral health and your physical well-being. Some of the most prominent theories of oral-systemic health describe the reactions within your body when oral bacteria are allowed into the bloodstream. Inflammation is your body’s attempt to drive out harmful microorganisms. By manipulating this and other facets of your immune system, certain oral bacteria can increase your risk of systemic problems.

The Power of Bacteria

P. gingivalis is only one of over 600 identifiable kinds of bacteria in your mouth, but it’s infamous for its contribution to aggressive gum disease. When dental plaque, a by-product of oral bacteria, gathers along your gum line, P. gingivalis survives by evading inflammation, leading to rampant swelling, bleeding, and tissue damage in your gums. P. gingivalis has been shown to exacerbate other inflammatory diseases, like cardiovascular disease, but it isn’t the only dangerous microbe in your mouth.

Poor Oral Health and Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory infections, like acute bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occur when you breathe bacteria from your mouth and throat into your lower respiratory tract. One study examined patients who were hospitalized with respiratory infections, and compared their periodontal health to those who’ve never had respiratory trouble. The study determined that the hospitalized patients had significantly worse periodontal health and bacteria populations than their healthier counterparts. Researchers stress that the results highlight the importance of maintaining good hygiene and routine dental care, including periodontal treatment, to reduce risks of other systemic health issues.

About Your San Diego Periodontist:

As a board-certified periodontist, Dr. Ann Kania is specially qualified to diagnose and treat issues concerning periodontal tissue and the supportive structures of a patient’s smile, as well as place dental implants for patients with missing teeth. To seek Dr. Kania’s help and expertise, visit our office or contact us today at (760) 642-0711.