January 17, 2011
Suppose that you could prevent a heart attack with a 2-minute, no sweat exercise that could be performed anywhere? Would you be interested?
Researchers believe that the connection between heart attacks and periodontal disease is so convincing that flossing your teeth regularly might actually be an exercise that saves your life. In fact a recent study showed a 50% increased risk for heart disease in patients with existing periodontal disease.
Plaque, a clear, sticky film that forms on everyone’s teeth, is made almost entirely of colonies of bacteria. If the plaque is not consistently removed by brushing and flossing, it will harden into tartar…which then can’t be removed by flossing and brushing…only a professional cleaning. Eventually the bacteria may inflame the gums causing gingivitis or progress to a more severe condition of the supporting structures called periodontal disease. At this stage the bone is irreversibly damaged and eventually destroyed, and the teeth may be lost.
If the oral bacteria in a person with gum disease enters the blood stream, tiny clotting cells called platelets clump around the bacteria and can settle on injured tissues such as compromised heart valves and linings, and on damaged blood vessels. A heart attack or a stroke happens when a clot lodges in a coronary artery restricting oxygen flow to the heart muscle or travels to a portion of the brain. In addition mechanisms exist that can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries…the leading cause of death in the world today.
While all the information is not yet available, many clinicians feel that infections do play a role in heart disease, and may explain some of the risk that is not accounted for by other factors including high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, being overweight, and living a sedentary lifestyle. Preventing gum disease from occurring or treating it early will help save your smile, and may also save your life.
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