Being your best, healthiest self includes paying close attention to your oral health. The
foundation of a healthy smile and a status check of your overall health can actually be
determined by certain factors. The most incredible component of a dental exam is an
evaluation of the presence of inflammation. Inflammatory markers are determined by
comparing measurements of the gingival tissue to normal standards. The appearance of the
soft tissue of the palate, gums, tongue, floor of the mouth and inside of the cheeks provides
significant information about the status of circulation, cell renewal, infection and chronic
illness. We do now know , after decades of research, that the presence of inflammation in the
mouth can be a very early precursor to inflammatory conditions that may be occurring or could
eventually develop internally. This is very important in regards to potential development of
certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and yes, even cancer.
But how does this actually occur. The mouth is a very unique environment that can cause
difficulty for the bodies immune system to eradicate infection. The reason for this is that most
bacteria that cause illness in the mouth exist on the teeth. The bodies immune system does not
have the capacity to deploy its defense to the surface of the teeth. The farthest it can go is the
soft tissue. In most cases we see this as inflammation, bleeding and changes in color of the
gingiva. If the inflammation causing bacteria are not removed from the tooth surfaces, the
inflammatory system goes into a long term chronic activation. This leads to permanent damage
which we see as periodontal disease. The progression of periodontal disease leads to bacteria
being transported in the blood stream creating distant sites of infection and inflammation.
These distant sites can be eventually be found as arterial plaques and tumors. Multiple recent
studies have linked the presence of gum disease with an increased risk in breast cancer,
especially in older women. Previous research has already determined multiple links between
gum disease and oral, pancreatic, lung and head and neck cancers.
As a dental professional, I urge everyone to obtain a baseline evaluation to determine your risk
factors. The wonderful thing about oral exams is the timing. Oral evaluation of early
periodontal disease is, on average, a diagnosis that comes decades prior to the onset of chronic
illness. Decades!! The soft tissue of the oral cavity can many times be the first point of non-
invasive observation of early health problems. But as a dental professional, I have to look in
your mouth early and I have to look in your mouth often. Don’t skip your dental visit! It is more
important than you may know.