Frankly, your mouth is prime real estate for your average bacteria–it’s warm, it’s moist, it has a continuous stream of sustenance. What’s not to like? A bug could do much worse…
As it happens, these microscopic life forms in your mouth are friend and foe. On the one hand, some of them assist with the initial breakdown of food for digestion. These microbes are working for you. Unfortunately, the other ones can really wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. Left unchecked, your mouth’s “tenants” can cause decay, plaque buildup, gum disease, and even potentially lead to tooth and bone loss.
Let’s face it, your mouth is a very pleasant place to call home to these tiny creatures. But wait–do these mouth bacteria sometimes take a “road trip” and thus cause problems in other parts of your body?
Can traveling microbes create vulnerability for the heart and blood vessels?
And can improving oral health help to prevent cardiovascular problems?
The answers seem to be yes, yes, and yes!
Studies are underway to pinpoint the exact mechanisms that may make a definitive bridge between oral/dental health and cardiovascular health. Initial findings point to a commonsense connection between your mouth and the rest of you. After all, your mouth is an indicator of overall system health.
For example, if you suffer from periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), you release bacteria into the bloodstream every time you chew, as well as every time you brush your teeth. Also, oral bacteria can release toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or carried in the bloodstream. The immune system responds to these toxins in a way that could harm vessel walls, or make blood clot more easily.
One of the major weapons of the immune system is inflammation. Areas of the body under “suspicion” by the immune system get hot, swollen, flooded with “fighter” cells. This mechanism is designed–literally–to burn out the “enemy.” The enemy, of course, is anything the body perceives as a threat, such as apparently rogue proteins–like those released by itinerant oral bacteria. Research findings also indicate that inflammation in the mouth incites inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the arteries is a known factor in heart attack and stroke.
Compounds in dental plaque can really get around!
Scientists exploring the habits of plaque have found that plaques in different areas of the body are similar to one another. Several species of bacteria–the ones responsible for periodontitis–are also found in atherosclerotic plaque, in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. These forms of plaque can lead to heart attack.
Unquestionably, you already know from your dentist that regular cleaning is essential. Your dentist has also recommended daily brushing and flossing. Now you see there’s strong evidence of correlation between oral health and overall health.
Talk to your dentist about your oral health requirements. Frequent cleanings, oral exams, along with regular brushing and flossing are essential to your total system upkeep…and may well assist you to manage risk of heart disease and stroke.
Schedule a cleaning today. Keep yourself strong and vital, and smiling too! You’re worth it.