This article on Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation in AARP is one of the easiest to understand that I've found.
The article explains how chronic low grade inflammation affects your body by attacking the linings of your arteries or intestines and by attacking cells in the liver and brain, and by attacking tissues in your muscles and joints. Links to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, arthritis and depression have been established.
Why is this so important from the dental standpoint? As the article points out in the section header "There are 'pro-inflammatory foods'?", gingivitis and periodontal disease (both problems with your gums) are both forms of chronic inflammation. The good news is, there is something you can do about gingivities and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is the early form of chronic inflammation. The suffix -itis is what we use to denote inflammation. Thus gingivitis is inflammation of the gingiva (or gums). Gingivitis is contained mostly in your gums with very little affect on the underlying bone and other support structures for your teeth. Often having your teeth cleaned professionally on a regular basis and properly doing your daily oral hygiene regimen at home will reduce or eliminate gingivitis. (But if you slack off, the gingivitis can return.)
Periodontal disease (which used to be called periodontitis) involves your gums, bone, and other supporting structures around the teeth. The chronic inflammation creates an environment that the bone around your teeth doesn't like. Over time, the bone responds by moving away from the source of the inflammation. Unfortunately, this often creates a pocket between your teeth and gums that tends to trap more food and bacteria and continues the inflammation response--continuing the unfavorable environment, and causing more loss of bone as it continues to try to get away from that environment.
Unfortunately, once you've lost bone and other supporting structures around your teeth, there isn't a way to replace them. THERE IS NO CURE!
Yes, we can clean up the area by doing "deep cleanings" (your insurance will call it Scaling and Root Planing) or by having surgical gum treatments, but the minute you (or we) back off, the bacteria can set up shop again and in about 3-4 months will build up enough in their number and toxic effect to start breaking down the supporting structures for your teeth again. This is why we recommend you return to your dentist every 3 to 4 months for a procedure called "Periodontal Maintenance" (which is basically a deep cleaning for your entire mouth)--we don't want your dental health to relapse--because when the process gets far enough along TOOTH LOSS is the result.
Conventional dental teaching states that when your gums bleed, bacteria from the mouth can enter your bloodstream and affect other body systems, like your heart. So it only makes sense to keep your gums as healthy as you can so you can enjoy not only your best dental health but your best overall health as well.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD
1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W
Lorain, OH 44053-3614