But not in the way you might be thinking. There are between 200 and 300 bacteria in your mouth. One that is called the keystone of periodontal disease (pd) is a rod-shaped bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis or p. gingivalis for short. This, along with a streptococcal bacteria, are the main players in dental decay, plaque build-up and gum disease.
Immune System Scramble
P. gingivalis is a tricky bacteria. It sets up an environment for itself and other bacteria to live in the mouth. As the body puts up an immune response, p. gingivalis attaches itself to monocyte immune cells. When this occurs, monocyte immune cells become stickier and are more likely to attach themselves to important cells and proteins in the blood stream. Can you see how this goes? The sticky monocytes collect and adhere to other “stuff” which over time becomes blockages called plaque. Atherosclerosis is caused by plaque build-up in the blood vessels. The stickiness of monocytes with attached p.gingivalis may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Dental Health and CVD, RA, Alzheimer’s: You Name the Connection
The nun study gave researchers a clue to another issue with periodontal disease (pd). The nuns who had lost more teeth because of pd were more likely to have dementia than other nuns. In another epidemiological study, reduced cognitive function was associate with pd. Additionally, other recent research has implicated periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Connecting the Dots
In the US, although dental coverage is seen as essential for children, Healthcare.gov says “is not an essential health benefit for adults. Insurers don’t have to offer adult dental coverage.” Yet there is growing evidence that our mouths and teeth are attached to our bodies and chronic conditions are associated with poor dental hygiene. Having a regular teeth cleaning by a professional is part of good dental hygiene.
So get out those toothbrushes, pull out that floss and keep those pearly whites, pearly white.