Oral bacteria could have a role to play in the flare-up of irritable bowel disease, new research suggests.
The findings, presented in the journal Oral Diseases, discovered that colitis, also known as irritable bowel disease (IBD), was aggravated by the presence of several oral bacteria.1
The research also identified the virulent oral bacteria invaded the bloodstream, giving further ammunition to the growing belief gum disease could be linked to several health conditions.
It is estimated that IBD affects about one person in every 250 in the UK. There are around 120,000 people with ulcerative colitis and 90,000 with Crohn’s disease in the UK. IBD is usually diagnosed in people in their late teens or early 20s, but it can appear at any age.
The research is another reminder of how looking after your mouth can keep your body healthy, and Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, explained some of the ways people can do that.
Dr Carter said: “The research gives a very clear indication that oral bacteria does have a role to play when it comes to IBD. It is the latest piece in a very long line of research that suggests what goes on in your mouth is linked to your body.
“If you suffer from IBD, this research shows that you need to keep your gums healthy. The mouth is often the first point of contact for many bugs, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing the right things to keep your mouth in pristine condition.
“My number one piece of advice is do the basics. Without these anything else becomes superfluous. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. Once you are into a routine of doing these things, you can also clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss and use a mouthwash.
“If you have swollen gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth or regular mouth infections appear, it is likely you have gum disease.”
Given the nature of irritable bowel disease, Dr Carter advised people to consider their diet to help alleviate symptoms as well as keep teeth healthy.
“IBD is a lifestyle-related disease, so it is important to begin to regulate your diet to minimise a flare-up”, Dr Carter added. “The same dietary considerations need to be taken to ensure a good standard of oral health. It has been well-documented in the past that ‘hidden nasties’ have a leading role to play in the level of poor oral health that exists in the UK, not to mention the level of obesity.
“Latest statistics show more than two in three men and almost three in five women are obese. Even worse more than one in four children are also classified as obese. As well as having a crippling effect on the NHS, addressing the obesity issue takes up a significant amount of money that could otherwise be invested in dentistry. It really is all down to lifestyle choices.”
1. A Kojima, R Nomura, S Naka, R Okawa, T Ooshima and K Nakano (2014) Aggravation of inflammatory bowel diseases by oral streptococci Oral Diseases 20, 359-366.