August 5, 2008

Watch Your Mouth

Brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist every six months can do more than remove tartar, whiten teeth, and freshen breath – it can also help your heart health!

Confused? Allow me to clarify.

Gum disease (known in dentistry circles as "periodontal disease") can cause more than just tooth loss.

Researchers theorize that the different bacteria in your gums – the same ones that, if not treated, inflame them and make them bleed when you brush – can enter the bloodstream and cause plaque buildup -- and inflammation -- in your arteries.

Remember, a buildup of plaque in coronary arteries blocks bloodflow to the heart. Bad news indeed.

And it’s not just a one-way street. Brushing and flossing are important for gum health, but nutrition also plays an important role.

Recent studies strongly support the notion that vitamin C and zinc deficiencies make gum tissue more vulnerable to infection by making it more penetrable for bacteria.

Calcium is another major character in this oral drama.

Since it is needed for bone structure – including the bone that supports teeth – it is believed that insufficient intakes make the bone more vulnerable to infection by bacteria, thereby increasing the risk of developing gum disease.

Another risk factor? Diabetes!

Tuns out bacteria absolutely thrive in saliva high in blood glucose levels. And by "thrive" I mean "wreak havoc on gum tissue."

And so we go back to the idea that, in the field of health, everything is related.

Consider the following summary: excess calories can lead to weight gain, increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, thereby increasing periodontal disease risk, which can negatively affect cardiovascular health.

It’s kind of like a less fun “six degrees of separation” game.

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