Protect Heart Health With Healthy Smile

Posted on May 01, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Bacteria in our bodies is normal. Certain bacteria are actually beneficial, such as bacteria in the gut that enhances the digestive process. The body is also equipped to handle ‘bad’ bacteria. However, when too much bad bacteria invade the body, the immune system becomes overburdened.

The body’s natural defense response, white blood cells, aren’t always capable of tackling bacteria beyond certain levels. For example, a cut that becomes infected has surpassed what the white blood cells were able to handle. To give your immune system added reinforcements, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection in the mouth. This occurs when oral bacteria’s growth has accumulated beyond what the immune system can manage. As gum disease destroys oral tissues and the structures that support teeth, this infectious bacteria doesn’t always stay confined in the mouth.

Through tears in weakened gum tissues, the bacteria of gum disease can become bloodborne. This allows it to travel throughout the body and cause systemic inflammation. As a result, serioud health conditions can occur. The bacteria of gum disease has been linked to a long list of problems including heart attack, stroke, memory loss, preterm babies, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, impotency and some cancers.

To understand this connection (related to heart attacks), Harvard Medical School’s newsletter provides an easy explanation:

In the article, they break the process down as: “In people with periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), chewing and toothbrushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to heart attack.

“Oral bacteria could also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. It is also possible that inflammation in the mouth revs up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.”

The symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed easily when brushing, tender gums, gum recession, frequent bad breath, gums that darken from a healthy pink to red, and pus pockets that form near the base of some teeth. Gum disease affects nearly 47 percent of American adults. It will worsen without treatment and, to no surprise, is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Decades of research have proven that our oral health is intricately related to our overall health. By achieving and maintaining a healthy smile, you’ll be doing your whole body good! Be committed to your 6-month dental exams and cleanings along with a thorough at-home oral care regimen. Twice daily brushing and daily flossing help to keep oral bacteria at manageable levels. Drink plenty of water throughout each day and avoid sugar.

For more information on having excellent oral health, call 828-274-9440.

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