How a Chronic Inflammatory Condition Can Affect Dental Health

Your regular dental visits are also critical for gum monitoring.

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
If you have a chronic inflammatory condition, such as asthma you need to know that the constant inflammation can cause a variety of health impacts, including dental issues. Here are some common ways that an inflammatory condition could affect your dental health.

Increasing Gum Inflammation Risk

A chronic inflammatory condition could increase the risk of gum disease. If your body's inflammation baseline is already high, your gums may more easily become inflamed enough to display symptoms of gingivitis.

If you have widespread inflammation in your body, you'll need to be extra careful to not only keep your gums clean with regular brushing and flossing but also monitor your gums for common symptoms associated with gum disease. When inflammation takes hold in your gums, you may notice symptoms such as:

   Red, painful gums

   Puffy gums

   Gum tissue that bleeds easily

Your regular dental visits are also critical for gum monitoring. Your dental professional can use special instruments to check for deeper gum pockets and gum recession, which are both signs that gum disease is present.

“We do notice this health pattern amongst many of the dental implant recipients that we treat”, says Dr. Igal Elyassi, DDS, of Wilshire Smile Studio in Los Angeles, CA.  “These conditions can accelerate the losing of teeth, which may lead to additional health problems.

Triggering Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, or TMD

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in response to inflammation. But your body (including your mouth) isn't designed to handle high levels of stress hormones constantly. So excess cortisol can have a detrimental effect on your dental health as well as your overall health.

For instance, your body may cope with the excess stress by unknowingly developing habits such as clenching your jaw or even grinding your teeth at night. Unfortunately, these habits can be very damaging to your teeth.

Nighttime teeth grinding, for instance, can cause extreme enamel wear. Known as bruxism, this condition can also result in cracks and chips in your teeth and can even cause gum recession. For this condition your dentist may recommend a nightguard, which allows your teeth to grind together but reduces the impact of grinding and lessens any wear to the enamel.

Another dental issue that stress may affect is the health of your jaw joint. Known as the temporomandibular joint, this joint can sometimes succumb to a disorder called temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Common symptoms include pain in the joint, difficulty opening the jaw fully (which can make hygiene difficult), and odd clicking sounds from the joint.

In addition to making you feel more tense and stressed, cortisol may actually increase the chances that you'll contract gum disease.

Contributing to Anxiety and Depression

Mental health struggles can make caring for your dental health even more difficult. Depression can sap your motivation to keep up with twice-daily dental hygiene routines, for example. And anxiety can sometimes make going to the dentist more difficult.

Anxiety and depression may also contribute to damaging habits such as clenching your jaw. Unfortunately, stress may increase anxiety, and at least one study suggests that depression may be directly linked to inflammation levels as well. So if you have an inflammatory condition, anxiety or depression may be another factor to contend with when trying to keep teeth healthy.

Different inflammatory conditions can have different results on your dental health, but the effects listed here are some common ones that can occur if you have chronic inflammation. As you can see, having an inflammatory condition may put you at higher risk for several dental health issues, so you'll need to be extra vigilant with tooth and gum health.

Be sure to discuss your chronic illness with both your doctor and your dentist. Although your condition may not be curable, talk to your doctor about treatments to control inflammation. In addition, you should ask your dentist if you need more frequent cleanings and exams.

For more information on caring for your teeth with an inflammatory condition or to schedule your next appointment, call your dental office today.