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Gut inflammation

Our oral health is connected to our overall health and a growing number of studies has proven the relationship between the two.

A recent study from the University of Michigan Medical and Dental Schools reveals that poor oral health may worsen inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, an umbrella term used to describe chronic inflammation of the digestive tract which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

SEE ALSO: Gum disease increases women’s risk of breast cancer

The U-M medical team of researchers collaborated with the dental school after noticing the accumulating evidence that links an excess of foreign bacterial species in the guts of people with IBD—bacteria that are normally found in the mouth.

Published in Cell, the new study shows two pathways by which oral bacteria appear to exacerbate gut inflammation.

Young woman with stomach pain

The first pathway

In the first pathway, the researchers found that gum disease leads to an imbalance in the normal healthy microbiome found in the mouth. They saw an increase of bacteria that cause inflammation, and these bacteria then travel to the gut.

Nobuhiko Kamada, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine in the division of gastroenterology, says that the normal gut microbiome resists colonization by foreign bacteria.

“However, in mice with IBD, the healthy gut bacteria are disrupted, weakening their ability to resist disease-causing bacteria from the mouth,“ Kamada said. ”The team found that mice with both oral and gut inflammation had significantly increased weight loss and more disease activity.”

The second pathway

In the second pathway, gum disease is said to activate the immune system’s T cells in the mouth and these mouth T cells travel to the gut where they, too, worse the inflammation. Removed from their normal environment, these inflammatory T cells end up triggering the gut’s immune response, worsening disease.

SEE ALSO: New study says frequent toothbrushing protects your heart

What does these pathways tell us?

“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,” says co-author William Giannobile, DDS, professor of dentistry and chair of the department of periodontics and oral medicine at the U-M School of Dentistry.

“This study importantly implies that clinical outcomes in IBD may be improved by monitoring oral inflammation – an intriguing concept.”

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