Inflammation: the relationship between oral health and systemic disease.

Abstract Since the mid 1990s, both the scientific community and the public have been inundated with articles addressing the association between systemic diseases and oral health. It seems that almost monthly there is an article in a fashion magazine reminding the public that tooth brushing and flossing can save their life.

Some articles point to the notion that oral infection and bacteria may be linked to heart attack and stroke. Others dispel the association, indicating that there is not enough research to determine any relationship between the two. The questions that have been raised focusing on the relationship between periodontal diseases and systemic conditions now extend beyond cardiovascular disease and include diabetes, respiratory disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Research has demonstrated that the association between oral inflammation and systemic inflammation may be the key to understanding the deleterious effects on multiple organ systems. However, is the relationship so complex that it is like trying to crack the DaVinci Code, or can health care professionals and the public understand the role of inflammation in oral and systemic health? The purpose of this article is to review how the inflammatory process functions in the human body. The role of inflammation in oral and systemic health will be discussed. Translating this information into practical application for dental hygiene professionals will be addressed so that both inquiring patients and astute clinicians will capitalize on the opportunities for improving total health.

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