Were you aware of the fact that heart attacks are caused by the same plaque that builds up on your teeth? The most common form of bacteria that is in dental plaque is able to escape out into the bloodstream and then end up traveling arteries, resulting in blood clots that could cause a fatal heart attack.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, individuals with periodontal (gum) are almost two times likely to have heart disease. Plaque has been linked to the following diseases:
– Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
– Bacterial Endocarditis- this is a condition where the heart valves and lining of the heart become enlarged
Also a 2006 study that was conducted by Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine showed that individuals who are missing all or some of their teeth from having periodontal disease also are at higher risk to have a stroke.
However, experts do say the evidence isn’t yet clear. The American Academy of Periodontology states that individuals who have periodontal disease are nearly two times as likely to get coronary artery disease (which is also referred to as heart disease). According to one study, common mouth problems being present, including missing teeth, cavities and gum disease (gingivitis) were good predictors of levels of heart disease as cholesterol.
A recent study that appeared in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association studied 657 individuals who had no known heart disease. Lead author Desvarieux and co-authors of the study found that individuals with higher blood levels of some bacteria in their mouths that cause disease had a higher likelihood of having atherosclerosis inside their neck’s carotid artery. When the carotid arteries get clogged it can result in a stroke.
Hardening of the arteries, or arteriosclerosis, can develop when fat deposits and other substances that are inside your blood start to sticking to the sides of the arteries. The deposits are plaques, which may build up and make your arteries narrower and clog them up, similar to plugging up a drain. If your blood flow is ever completely blocked by the plaques, you might possibly have a stroke or heart attack, depending on where the blockage is located.
(Note: Plaque is not all the same. The plaques inside your arteries are not the same thing as the dental plaque that is scraped off your teeth by the dental hygienist. Dental plaque is the sticky residue that comes from the food particles and acid that can eat tooth enamel away and irritate your gums.)
So how is hardening of the arteries related to gingivitis, the minor villain that appears in mouthwash and toothpaste commercials? At this point, no one is sure. Experts do know that bacteria inside the mouth can get into the bloodstream via the gums. That same bacteria has been discovered clumped inside artery plaques. One of the theories is that the bacteria stick to fatty plaques that are inside the bloodstream, and that this contributes directly to blockages.
There are other possibilities that have to down with the defense mechanisms that the body has against bacteria. Inflammation (or swelling) is one of the natural responses that the body has to infection. As the oral bacteria are traveling through your body it’s possible that they might trigger a response that is similar, which could your blood cells to swell. The swelling could narrow an artery, increasing the risk of clots being formed.
Given that the root of the problem may be inflammation adds to the data being gathered by researchers, suggesting additional diseases, including arthritis, heart disease and periodontal disease, caused partially by the inflammatory response of the body.
So could gingivitis, periodontal disease or pericoronitis (another dental disorder) where gum tissue surrounding the molars becomes infected and swollen, cause strokes and heart attacks? At this point it’s hard to say.
According to Dr. Bonow, it isn’t clear whether or not there is a direct link between heart disease and gum disease. There is evidence, but it hasn’t been tied together yet. It may true that individuals who have poor oral health also have more heart attacks. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the heart attacks are caused by poor oral health.
Dr. Low says that the consensus at this point is we still don’t have solid science showing a direct link between oral health and heart health exception in two areas, which are:
– There is similar bacteria found in both of these health issues. Low says that the bacterial found in gum disease is also found inside blood vessels undergoing atherosclerosis and that there are several kinds.
– Another common denominator in the two diseases is inflammation.
In order to prevent any type of connection between the two diseases, taking good care of your gums is very important. Plaque buildup is what causes gum disease.
The following are early gum disease signs:
– Receding gums
– Mouth sores
– Bad breath
– Puffy or bleeding gums
If you brush two times a days and floss once a day, in addition to visiting your dentist each six months, you can prevent the buildup of plaque. Get in touch with your dentist right away if you discover any potential signs of gum disease.
Cram says that we’ve known for a long time that prevention is very helpful. However, we thought of it for things like avoiding cavities. It appears now that brushing and flossing may also help to prevent health problems that are more serious in the future.