Flossing is great for your teeth, but did you know that it can do good for more than just your mouth? There is a correlation between periodontal disease and coronary artery disease. According to a study by the American Academy of Periodontology, those who have periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to also suffer from heart disease. While the evidence isn’t conclusive, it’s been enough to prompt researchers to look into this phenomenon more closely.
Some of the findings have shown that people who have higher blood levels of certain kinds of bacteria in the mouth are more likely to have atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck. This condition often can lead to stroke. Atherosclerosis is a fancy way of saying hardening of the arteries, and occurs when deposits of fats and other substances in the blood stick to the sides of the arteries. If these deposits get so severe as to totally impede blood flow, you could have a heart attack or stroke.
These deposits traveling and building up in the arteries are also called plaque, but this plaque is not the same thing as the plaque on your teeth. The correlation is not as simple as that. The relationship between gingivitis and the hardening of arteries could be due to a few different things. Bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream via the gums. This same type of bacteria is found in artery plaques. Bacteria from the mouth may fix to the deposits in the bloodstream and become part of, and help to cause, blockages. Another possibility is that the body’s natural reaction to bacteria or infections is to initiate inflammation or swelling. As oral bacteria travel through the body, the bacteria could be causing swelling of the blood cells and then narrowing the arteries, increasing the risk of clots.
While the exact nature of the relationship is unknown, there is definitely a connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. In order to prevent the bacteria that results from poor oral hygiene and that causes periodontal disease, everyone should be brushing, and especially flossing, in order to remove the hard-to-reach plaque that eventually causes bacteria. A health conscious person with good dental hygiene may be able to save themselves from, or at least greatly reduce the risk of, a severe health condition, such as a heart attack or stroke.