Are you putting off your next dental cleaning? If you’re regularly rescheduling, you may want to rethink that plan.
Skipping the dentist isn’t just bad for your mouth – it’s also bad for your gut, according to a new collaborative study from the University of Michigan Medical and Dental Schools.
The study has found that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, may worsen with poor oral health.
Inflammatory bowel disease affects about 3 million adults in the United States.
The University of Michigan researchers involved in the project studied the gut microbiome, or the collection of healthy bacteria in the gut, for many years.
Over time, they noticed an emerging connection between the overgrowth of foreign bacteria in the intestines of people living with IBD. These bacteria are typically found in the mouth.
The connection spurred the team to answer the question, “How does oral disease affect the severity of gastrointestinal diseases?”
Using laboratory mice, the researchers were able to identify two clear pathways in which oral bacteria appear to worsen gut inflammation and cause the pain, bloating and discomfort associated with IBD.
The first pathway, periodontitis, also known as gum disease, can contribute to an imbalance of the normal healthy mouth microbiome and an increase in gut inflammation.
But, it may not be the imbalance alone setting inflammation off. The team found that healthy gut bacteria are overtaken by the disease-causing bacteria and are weakened. When these bacteria are made weaker, they cannot fight off illness.
The researchers found that mice with both oral and gut inflammation had more significant weight loss and disease activity.
In the second pathway, periodontitis causes the immune system’s T cells in the mouth to activate. These cells then travel to the intestines, where they exacerbate inflammation. In most cases, the gut’s normal microbiome is kept in check by the balance of both the inflammatory and regulatory T cells, which are fine-tuned to adjust bacterial changes.
The researchers found that when oral inflammation ramps up production of inflammatory T cells, these cells eventually move to the gut and trigger the intestine’s immune response, making IBD worse.
The researchers believe the study could improve treatments for IBD.
Dr. David Buck, a Seattle dentist, says the study further supports the link between oral health and the health of the body.
“The mouth and body are connected. If one is out of balance, the other will be, too,” Buck said.
Source: Source: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. “Could the cure for IBD be inside your mouth? A new study describes how poor oral health may worsen gut inflammation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2020.