Your dentist may be the first person to see early signs of cardiovascular disease. That's right, the health of your gums and teeth is closely related to the health of your heart. Early signs of concern include bleeding gums, gingivitis, and tooth decay, all of which indicate excess inflammation.
In recent years, the many consequences of inflammation have become clear, ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer to dementia and beyond. Fortunately, there are lab tests that allow for effective measurement and monitoring of inflammation. More importantly, there are very effective natural interventions that address the root cause of inflammation, leading to decreased levels, improved oral health and an associated decreased risk of disease.
What lab tests are recommended to assess inflammation?
Two lab tests commonly used to assess systemic, total body, chronic inflammation are high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and homocysteine. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is a third test that may be employed from time to time, but it is a less reliable marker of chronic inflammation than hsCRP and homocysteine.
If my dentist sees signs of inflammation or my inflammatory lab markers are elevated what can I do?
Firstly, heed your dentist's recommendations for oral hygiene! Daily flossing, brushing and regular cleanings are essential to decreasing oral and systemic inflammation. Supplements such as oral probiotics, therapeutic doses of fish oil, and professional grade curcumin may also be prescribed to reverse the inflammatory trend.
Secondly, assess your diet and make appropriate changes. The bad news is that when signs of inflammation are present or lab tests are elevated, diet is inevitably a contributor. The good news is that there are three simple ways to have a tremendously positive impact on inflammation through your diet.
1. Decrease consumption of foods that contribute to inflammation. With sugar, sweets, juice, soda, alcohol and simple carbohydrates (such as white rice, white potatoes, pasta and breads) topping the list of pro-inflammatory foods, your dentist will be fully supportive of these changes!
2. Increase consumption of foods that decrease inflammation. These include spices such as turmeric and ginger, colorful vegetables, colorful fruits and healthy fats such as fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, avocado, and coconut. An easy way to put this into practice is to 11eat the rainbow" in vegetables, with up to two colors coming from fruit every day.
3. For maximum benefits, take on both decreasing consumption of pro-inflammatory foods and increasing consumption of anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation - and its associated disease states - is not an inevitable outcome of aging. Ask your dentist if they see any warning signs, and if they do, spring into action to restore your health!
As a Clinical Nutrition and Functional Medicine Specialist, Dr. Hehmeyer seeks to identify and address the root cause of health concerns, and through a collaborative relationship with patients, works to restore health and optimize wellness.