Inflammation: Friend or Foe?

Inflammation: Friend or Foe?

Inflammation is a major problem in oral health. It’s most commonly seen in the gum tissue, or gingiva, where lack of proper hygiene leads to a buildup of bacterial colonies, called plaques. These plaques emit a caustic acid that severely irritates gum tissue and causes the swelling, redness, localized warmth, and pain, that are typical signs of gum disease like gingivitis or periodontitis– and the cardinal signs of inflammation.

But inflammation is also a normal part of the healing process. So which is it—a good witch, or a bad witch?

Well, it may be both…

An acute situation…

When it is hurt, your body’s first response in the repair process is inflammation, a process that involves four intersecting steps.

  • Redness: increased blood to the injured area
  • Swelling: a result of blood vessels that have become more permeable in reaction to the immune system signals
  • Fever: a localized increase in temperature is caused by increased action of immune cells and greater blood volume
  • Pain: you start getting signals from your brain that your body has been injured

These four steps, known as inflammation’s “cardinal signs” coalesce to begin the process of healing. This means that when you’re experiencing the discomfort of gingivitis, part of that is actually your body making repairs.

… versus a prolonged problem

Inflammation is meant to show up when there’s an immediate problem and facilitate the healing process. It was never meant to hang out, overstaying its welcome and causing problems of its own– and that’s the difficulty with chronic inflammation.

If the stressors that initiate inflammatory processes don’t go away— for instance, irritated gum tissue suffering from improper hygiene– the whole body can suffer. Chemical mediators that trigger inflammation in a localized part of the body do travel, and they can cause low-grade inflammation in other areas. Inflammation is effective for short-term injury, but low-grade inflammation can actually cause damage.

Chronic inflammation is considered inflammation that is long-lasting, and marked by continuous repair and breaking down of tissue. It has been linked with a wide variety of diseases, most notably cardiovascular disease, which has been connected to inflammation of the gums.

Help your immune system to help you

Immune systems are great– they keep us healthy by protecting us from disease and defending us when we do become sick or injured. Your immune system is your personal body guard. And it can’t do it alone.

Preventative health is the best way that we can help our immune system to do its job. Healthy diet, exercise, sleep, stress management and hygiene are all every day ways to support our immune system and avoid inflammatory problems.

In the dental world, hygiene is often our best bet: brushing twice for two minutes each time, and flossing at least once, every single day. Regular dental visits to your West Linn dentist are equally essential.

Call to schedule your next appointment!

Photo Credit: mlaudisa via Compfight cc

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