Biology 101 taught us that accumulated bacteria could lead to an infection. Plus, it’s pretty obvious when it occurs. We all see a cut or skinned area become red with slight swelling as the body recruits white blood cells to the rescue. These cells are our body’s defense mechanism to battle infection.
However, some infection grows beyond what white blood cells can tackle. For example, imagine a deep gash that goes unwashed and untreated. As bacteria multiply and spread, the task becomes too great for white blood cells to overcome. It is in these cases that a doctor prescribes an antibiotic to give the white blood cells a leg up.
However, some infections in the body can ‘simmer’ without being obvious. This is the case with chronic inflammation. ‘Chronic’ means that the problem is ongoing, a continual issue. That’s easy. But it’s the internal inflammation that isn’t so easy to understand.
A number of studies have found that chronic inflammation can cause disastrous and even deadly reactions in our bodies. Research has determined it can lead to severe health problems, including heart attacks, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers and even Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the kind of inflammation that, once turned on, can’t turn itself off even when it’s no longer needed as a helpmate to the immune system.
Researchers have recently taken a closer look at periodontal disease, a bacterial infection in the mouth, to determine how this may trigger internal inflammation elsewhere in the body. As an accumulation of oral bacteria, periodontal disease bacteria thrive on gum tissues, teeth and supporting bones. When oral bacteria overwhelm white blood cells, inflammatory reactions can extend far beyond the mouth.
Decades ago, medical and dental scientists determined that the bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissue. Once bloodborne, the bacteria could trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. The inflammation created by oral bacteria has been linked with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, impotency and preterm babies.
New research now suspects a connection between oral bacteria and Prostatitis, an infection of the prostate. Prostatitis causes a frequent urge to urinate and burning or pain during urination.
Deemed an inflammatory disease, a Urologist may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics or medications to lower hormone levels. When urine flow is blocked, the specialist may perform surgery on infected areas of the prostate.
The oral bacteria-Prostatitis connection was noted in a recent study that was conducted by researchers at Case Western University, teaming Case Western’s School of Dental Medicine with Case Medical Center’s Department of Urology & Pathology. The study showed that, by overcoming periodontal disease, the symptoms of Prostatitis could be greatly improved.
Each participant in the study had moderate or severe gum disease. Additionally, all had inflammation of the prostrate gland with elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Some were treated for gum disease as prostrate symptoms and PSA levels were monitored. Others in the study received no treatment for their gum disease. None of the participants received treatment for their prostate conditions during the study.
At one and two month intervals, an overwhelming majority of the men in the study who had received periodontal therapy for gum disease showed lower PSA levels.
Could these findings help Prostatitis patients achieve better treatment results? More studies are planned. In the meantime, it is pretty telling about the importance of taking excellent care of your oral health. Signs of periodontal disease include tender gums that bleed when brushing, frequent bad breath, receded gums, gums that darken from a healthy pink to red, gums that pull away from teeth and oozing from pockets that form at the base of teeth.
As a dentist, what this clearly shows is the devastating impact of oral bacteria. Although we react quickly to bacterial infections that can be seen, gum disease that is hidden away in our mouths is no less potent..
Begin with a thorough examination and cleaning. If signs of gum disease are present, recommendations will be made to eliminate this bacterial overload and restore your smile to a healthy state. Call toll free 1-866-9-Smiles.