Healthy teeth and gum may help prevent common bowel diseases

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While many people put off their regular trips to the dentist, recent research has shown that the consequences of doing so may go beyond cavities and root canals.

From heart disease to diabetes, poor oral health is often a reflection of a person’s overall health and may even be the cause of systemic disease.

In a new study from the University of Michigan, researchers found that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which included Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and afflicts an estimated 3 million adults in the U.S., may be the latest condition made worse by poor oral health.

There is an emerging link in research literature between an overgrowth of foreign bacterial species in the guts of people with IBD—bacteria that are normally found in the mouth.

In the study, the team found two pathways by which oral bacteria appear to worsen gut inflammation.

In the first pathway, periodontitis, the scientific name for gum disease, leads to an imbalance in the normal healthy microbiome found in the mouth, with an increase of bacteria that cause inflammation. These disease-causing bacteria then travel to the gut.

However, this alone may not be enough to set off gut inflammation. The team demonstrated that oral bacteria may aggravate gut inflammation by looking at microbiome changes in mice with inflamed colons.

The team says the normal gut microbiome resists colonization by exogenous, or foreign, bacteria.

However, in IBD, the healthy gut bacteria can be disrupted, weakening their ability to resist disease-causing bacteria from the mouth.

The team found that mice with both oral and gut inflammation had significantly increased weight loss and more disease activity.

In the second proposed pathway, periodontitis activates the immune system’s T cells in the mouth. These mouth T cells travel to the gut where they, too, exacerbate inflammation.

The gut’s normal microbiome is held in balance by the action of inflammatory and regulatory T cells that are fine-tuned to tolerate the resident bacteria.

But oral inflammation generates mostly inflammatory T cells that migrate to the gut, where they, removed from their normal environment, end up triggering the gut’s immune response, worsening disease.

The team says this exacerbation of gut inflammation driven by oral organisms that migrate to the gut has important ramifications in emphasizing to patients the critical need to promote oral health as a part of total body health and wellbeing.

If you care about oral health, please read studies about this gum disease may tell if you will have Alzheimer’s and findings of an important causes of tooth decay and gum disease.

For more information about oral health and wellness, please see recent studies about How often should you get your teeth cleaned? and results showing that gum disease, inflammation, linked to stroke, hardened arteries.

The study is published in Cell. One author of the study is Nobuhiko Kamada, Ph.D.

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