Protect Heart With A Healthy Smile

Posted on Feb 02, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The human body is not only built to house bacteria, it is made to utilize some bacteria in a healthy way. For example, much of your gut bacteria help the digestive system operate more efficiently.

However, most of us know that a great number of bacteria strains can be harmful. This can happen when a cut becomes infected, the result of too much ‘bad’ bacteria. Although the body’s immune system responds to infection by sending white blood cells to conquer the ‘bad’ bacteria. At certain levels, however, rapidly growing bacteria can overwhelm white blood cells. This is when a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to give your white blood cells added reinforcement.

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection in the mouth. It begins when oral bacteria have accumulated beyond what the immune system can manage. As the infection spreads, gum disease destroys oral tissues and tooth-supporting structures, including bone, ligaments and tooth roots. Periodontal disease, not surprisingly, is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.

As harmful as oral can be to the mouth, the problem can easily become more widespread, and more severe. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, this infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream. As it travels throughout the body, research has found that it can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere. Studies have shown that the bacteria of gum disease is related to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, preterm babies and even impotency. Research is also finding a correlation between gum disease bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the first correlations between oral bacteria and other serious health problems was found in heart disease. One notation of this was published in Harvard Medical School’s newsletter, Harvard Health Publications:

“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.”

Generations ago, maintaining a healthy mouth was not the priority it has become today. And, the priority has garnered favor that goes far beyond the appearance of a smile. Because we now know our oral health is so closely related to our overall health, the medical community is taking a stronger standing in encouraging their patients to achieve good oral health.

As a matter of fact, a growing number of surgeons are advising their adult patients to have a periodontal check-up to ensure bacteria levels in their mouths will not burden the immune system’s ability in efficient healing. Ob-Gyn’s are also encouraging pregnant women to ensure their gums are healthy – for the sake of both the mother and their unborn baby.

Research has also shown that, by improving the oral health in diabetic patients, their insulin levels improve. This is also true for men who have elevated PSI levels, even when they receive no treatment for prostrate problems.

It is important to know the symptoms of gum disease. These include gums that bleed easily when brushing, tender or swollen gums, gum tissue that recedes from teeth, frequent bad breath, gums that deepen in color from a healthy pink, and pus pockets that form near the base of some teeth.

Don’t delay care. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. Begin by seeing a Periodontist, who specializes in treating all levels of gum disease. Then, be committed to your at-home oral hygiene regimen. Twice daily brushing and daily flossing is necessary to keep oral bacteria at a manageable level. Also, stay current with your twice-a-year dental exams and cleanings, which give you a periodic clean slate and can catch problems while still small.

For more information, call 828-274-9440 or schedule a consultation. Your smile – and your body – will thank you!

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