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Inflammation and Oral Health

Inflammation is a way the body protects itself, but it comes at a cost.

How Does Inflammation Relate to Dental Problems?

Oral infections, such as cavities, early gum disease (gingivitis) and advanced gum disease (periodontitis) all have an inflammation component. If you have a deep cavity, you may feel sensitivity to sweets, sensitivity to hot and cold or may feel pain. These factors indicate that the nerve of your tooth is inflamed.

The signs of gingivitis include gums that are red, swollen and bleed easily. It may hurt to brush your teeth and you may see a red tint on your toothbrush (blood). You may think bleeding gums are normal, but they aren't.

Inflammation associated with periodontitis is similar to gingivitis, but also involves the destruction of the bone and other supporting structures of the teeth. With periodontitis, the bacteria in the mouth infects the tissues around the teeth and causes inflammation. This results in damage to the bone and ligaments that hold teeth in place. Symptoms of this advanced form of gum disease include sensitivity, swollen and bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession and deep pockets between the teeth and gums. As the process continues, teeth may become loose and may need to be removed.

How Does Inflammation Relate to My Health?

Inflammation in the mouth can affect other health conditions you may have. This is because bacteria can travel throughout your body. Research shows that the bacteria from gingivitis and periodontitis is linked to conditions such as low birth weight babies, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and dementia.

If you feel or see signs of inflammation in your mouth, contact your dentist for an examination. Your dentist can determine the cause of the inflammation, identify your treatment options and develop a treatment plan to address the problem(s).

What is Inflammation?

Your body comes equipped with defense mechanisms, which help notify you and protect you when a problem occurs. Inflammation is the way your body can protect you from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.

When you have inflammation, you'll experience swelling, redness, and the area may feel hot. That's the end result of your body opening your blood vessels to send an army of white blood cells to surround and protect the area.

Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.