This is an unusual post to see here in Nourition. After all, why is a dietitian talking about teeth? And what do teeth have to do with inflammation?
This post is inspired by a seminar I attended at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium presented by Reid Winick, D.D.S, Dentistry for Health. The most important message is that oral health is inseparable from systematic health.
Here are three ways your teeth, nutrition, and your overall health overlap.
Nutrient deficiencies show up in your teeth before anywhere else. This article written by a dentist on the Dr. Oz website is a good simple read on the symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in teeth.
What the article missed:
- Nutrient deficiencies can mean something more serious. If you eat a varied diet and take dietary supplements and continue to suffer from deficiencies, your body is having a problem with absorption. Your digestive track needs a check up, and it’s a good idea to check for celiac disease.
- Somatitis (inflamed and sore mouth) are triggered by a variety of reasons including food sensitivities, autoimmune disease (lupus), and Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease). If there’s no obvious reason why you have sore mouth often, it’s worth investigating digestive and immune conditions.
How many of you have been told by your dentist that you only have gingivitis? How many of you were sent home with floss and mouthwash? While flossing and brushing are important in PREVENTING periodontal disease, once you have gingivitis–the first stage of periodontal disease–your dentist needs to be more aggressive.
Gingivitis means bad bacteria in mouth. If left untreated, these bad bacteria can enter your blood stream and/or migrate to your intestines, causing inflammation and imbalance between the good and bad bugs.
Periodontitis is an inflammatory mucosal disease – It is not just about bugs
Mucosa is the moist tissue that lines certain parts of the inside of your body. Since your mouth is the beginning of your digestive track, the lining (mucosa) of your mouth is related to the lining (mucosa) of your small and large intestines. Bag bug balance in your mouth can be related to bag bug balance in your intestines, connecting periodontal disease with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–Crohn’s and Ulcerative colititis, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
The progression of periodontal disease:
- Poor brushing and flossing lead to plaque and calculus build-up, the perfect home and food for bacteria to grow.
- The bacteria forms colonies. The immune systems comes to the rescue with inflammatory compounds to kill the bacteria. Weakened immune system due to poor nutrition, diabetes, aging, inflammatory bowel diseases, etc, leads to bleeding gums. That’s the first warning sign.
- The immune system starts to turn on itself and forms deep pockets. The bacteria transform from normal to disease-causing bacteria. They hide in the pockets and flossing can’t get rid of them. This is when you need a good dentists focused on prevention.
- Bacteria move to the blood stream, increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, pre-term labor, and systematic inflammation. The bone is now attacked by the immune system causing tooth loss.
- Advanced periodontal disease: implants, denture, surgery, bone grafting, etc become necessary.
Periodontal Disease and Chronic Disease
Plaque and calculus are inflammation. They raise your c-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen levels–markers of inflammation and risk factors of heart disease and blood clotting. Periodontitis contributes to the process of heart disease and is an independent risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
Periodontal disease is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pre-term birth
Research also connects periodontal disease to diabetes. Deep pockets are associated with impaired glucose tolerance and with diabetes. Treatment of periodontal disease in people with diabetes reduced HgA1C, which gives a 3-month picture of blood glucose level.
- Visit your dentist and get your teeth cleaned every 6 months.
- If you have diabetes, heart disease, or high CRP, see your dentist. Your teeth are probably in trouble too.
- If you have gingivitis or any early stage of periodontal disease, ask your dentist about therapies to kill the bacteria. Flossing isn’t enough. Realize that you are at risk for systematic inflammation.
- Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to plaque formation and periodontal disease can cause pre-term labor.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet. If you’re not sure whether your diet is adequate and whether you need supplements, a nutrition consult is a must. Your teeth need more than calcium.
- Skip soda and acidic foods. Low pH (high acidity) promotes bag bugs, and high pH (alkaline) promotes good bugs. Foods that promote high pH are cruciferous, leafy, and root vegetables.
- If you still have nutrient deficiencies, dig deeper. Why isn’t your body absorbing nutrients?
The lining of your mouth is only the beginning of the lining of your intestines. If you have bad bugs up, you might have bad bugs down. Gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation are symptoms of IBS, IBD, and SIBO, conditions related to bad bugs in your gut. Visit your doctor, and don’t forget that nutrition is a major player in these conditions.