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Posted on February 14, 2019
You may not have heard, but this Valentine’s Day you can do your heart some good by taking care of your teeth. We’ve touched on some of the ways your oral health can affect the rest of your body (link), but let’s take a closer look at some of the links.
On the surface, it makes perfect sense: everything we eat and drink goes through our mouth, and it’s attached directly to our airway. Obviously the bacteria in our mouths would affect the rest of our body, right? To be perfectly frank, research actually cannot draw a clear causative relationship between gum disease and heart disease. However, the two are very strongly correlated.
One of the main pathways we believe creates a relationship between gum disease and heart disease is inflammation. The bacteria in our mouths trigger our body’s immune system into action. The more severe the gum disease, the more drastic the immune response. White blood cells flood into our gum tissue, where they release inflammatory markers like cytokines and c-reactive proteins. These chemicals get swept off through the blood stream where they can increase inflammation throughout our cardiovascular tissues (among many others).
But it’s not just our own inflammation that’s the problem. The bacteria themselves can get into the blood stream as well. Those bleeding gums you keep trying to ignore? That’s an open pathway for bacteria to get into your blood where they can do tons of damage. Streptococcus gordonii, for example, can activate your platelets and cause blood clots. We’ve found oral pathogens in blood vessels of patients with atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), far from the mouth. While we’re not clear on the mechanism, there is a ton of evidence that periodontal pathogens can wreak havoc on your heart and circulatory system.
In short, great oral hygiene habits including daily flossing and thorough brushing will not only make you a better date this Valentine’s Day (check out our previous posts on bad breath here and here), but it may also protect your heart for years to come. And don’t forget your regular cleanings and check-ups, too. Happy Valentine’s Day, Orlando!
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