Gum Disease and Heart Attacks
Often we pump iron at the gym, eat nutritious meals, or go jogging while at the same time neglecting our teeth. The most potent weapon you may own costs $3.00 or less and resides in your bathroom. Its your toothbrush. So while exercise, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle go a long way toward a long healthy life, if you neglect your teeth you are missing one large piece of the puzzle.
Periodontitis or gum disease is a common condition which affects up to 40% of the worlds adult population. The infection affects the tissue that support the teeth and, if left untreated, it can cause bone loss around the tooth and eventual loss of teeth.
Researchers are able to pinpoint the link but there are several theories about how they are linked. One theory is that the oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream. Researchers have found that this bacteria is in the clumps of fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (blood vessels) and contribute to clot formation.
Another theory is that the inflammation caused by the gum disease increases the plague build up in the arteries and can contribute to swelling in the arteries. Researchers believe that the immune system may help this process as the blood cells swell slightly to the chronic presence of the bacteria and contribute to clot formation.
What is most important is that the link is conclusive. Gum disease and heart attacks are linked and are preventable.
One point to recognize is that the plaque that sits on your teeth is from bacterial build up and food particles while the plaque that builds in your arteries is from the fatty deposits after your food is digested. These are two different types of plaque.
*Researchers from the American Academy of Periodontology have found that people with gum disease and heart attacks are twice as likely to have coronary artery disease as those without the gum disease.
The reverse is also true. If you already have coronary disease any gum disease can make the condition worse. Interestingly researchers have also found a link between gum disease and heart attack and stroke. In one study, people diagnosed with acute stroke were more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
In another study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers studied the blood of 657 people with known heart disease. They found that those people had a higher level of specific bacteria and were more likely to have atheroclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck. This is a precursor to stoke.
The ADA (American Dietetic Association) also believes that keeping the mouth clean will make it difficult for the bacteria that cause gum disease and heart attack to get started. People who keep their mouths clean will also reap the benefits of fewer fillings, healthier gums and a brighter smile.
We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This holds true in most areas of medicine and isnt more true than in terms of avoiding cavities and improving cardiac disease. In a study performed in London and reported in Science magazine researchers found that by changing dental treatments, which included plaque removal and extraction of teeth that couldnt be saved, the subjects had a marked improvement in both the gum disease and restoration of blood vessel function.
Brushing your teeth and having them cleaned by a dentist every six months is a small price to pay for a bright smile and a healthy heart.
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