Have you ever considered that your oral hygiene has a direct link to your overall health? Did you ever to stop to think that keeping your mouth clean can keep your body free from chronic diseases such as diabetes, anemia and even heart disease?
We are here to tell you that flossing to prevent heart disease is not just a myth, it’s a reality!
The heart is probably the most important organ in the body. It is the pump that pumps the fuel (your blood) to every inch of your body. It is literally the reason why you are alive.
Flossing to prevent heart disease, true or hoax?
It is most definitely true! Not just flossing to prevent heart disease but oral hygiene in general with a focus on flossing. As you may well know, the main purpose of flossing is to remove the food particles and debris that is collected between the teeth. It is impossible to reach with only the toothbrush.
It is in these tricky, concealed areas that gum disease starts purely due to the lack of care and oral hygiene.
The bacteria infiltrate the area around the tooth, which is highly rich in blood supply. So in other words, the periodontal area (the area around the tooth) is a highway to the heart. That means the bacteria could very easily reach the heart and cause all sorts of problems.
A variety of heart problems exist and the ones directly linked to periodontal disease are:
Is the most common condition that affects the heart that has the highest mortality rate of all diseases of the body. Heart attacks are responsible for 3000 deaths everyday. That is a death every 30 seconds.
A heart attack is when the coronary arteries (the largest arteries in the body responsible for the blood reaching the lungs to be filled with oxygen) get partially or completely clogged. Fats are deposited within the arteries so they get narrower by time and eventually there isn’t enough space for the blood to flow.
The most common reasons for a heart attack are the excessive intake of fats through foods, lack of exercise as well as being genetically prone to them. But another reason that is unknown to many is periodontal disease.
Another popular condition with direct correlation to oral and dental health is infective endocarditis. Perhaps not as common as heart attacks, but equally as dangerous.
Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria invade the valves of the heart causing them to become rough. As a result any deposits are collected on these valves making them heavy and sluggish. Eventually they stop moving completely and the heart stops pumping.
Link between gum disease and heart attack
The direct link between periodontal disease and these conditions is not directly established. Some studies are aimed at determining the link and most come to the conclusion that they are connected since both are inflammatory conditions. The bacteria that cause both periodontal disease and heart conditions are of the same species.
A study conducted in 2005 of a large sum of people of both genders, different ages and races, concluded that people with poor oral hygiene suffer from an increased thickness of the walls of the coronary arteries. In other words, clogged arteries is iminent.
While people who brush, floss and generally take care of their oral hygiene suffer no such thickness. And therefore, they are less likely to suffer a coronary attack (aka heart attack). In simple terms, flossing helps prevent heart disease.
Studies linking Periodontal Disease with Heart Disease
This topic has received a lot of attention in the recent years, and quite rightfully so. A group of Periodontologists and cardiologists stripped the data from more than 120 studies regarding the matter, and they came up with the following:
- 1Periodontal disease is directly linked with clogged arteries in the legs.
- 2Periodontal disease is considered a risk of stroke, since it has been linked with clogged arteries in the brain.
So who’s to say that the same clogging couldn’t happen in the heart? And not just the heart, as periodontal disease has been established as a risk factor in establishing diabetes. What about as a preterm to low birthweight babies being born or infectious conditions that affects the eyes and the joints.
As for infective endocarditis, the link is pretty well established. You might have experienced a brief encounter with the situation if you suffer from diabetes and went for a cleaning session. Your dentist would have advised you to take a prophylactic antibiotic before starting the session.
Link between low immunity, gum and heart disease
While some dentists would argue the cause of such an intervention, those who give this piece of advice are quite justified. For years, people have been suffering from infective endocarditis after a dental visit. Which raised the question of why this would be happening. The answer is: Low Immunity.
Any condition that causes the immunity to decrease (examples are diabetes and auto immune diseases such as lupus) diminishes the body’s ability to fight off bacterial attacks. We established that the periodontal region is a highway to the heart, so there is a definite possibility that the bacteria that causes endocarditis could very easily reach the heart.
Is flossing good for your heart?
Of course there is no definite guarantee that if you don’t take care of your teeth that you would develop a heart disease. The matter is still under heavy research and nothing is for certain. But isn’t it better to be safe than sorry.
- Nordendahl E, Gustafsson A, Norhammar A, Näsman P, Rydén L, Kjellström AB; PAROKRANK Steering Committee.: “Severe Periodontitis Is Associated with Myocardial Infarction in Females.”, J Dent Res. 2018 Mar 1:22034518765735. doi: 10.1177/0022034518765735.
- Desvarieux M, Demmer RT, Rundek T, Boden-Albala B, Jacobs DR Jr, Sacco RL, Papapanou PN.: “Periodontal microbiota and carotid intima-media thickness: the Oral Infections and Vascular Disease Epidemiology Study (INVEST).”, Circulation. 2005 Feb 8, PMID: 15699278
- Beck JD, Moss KL, Morelli T, Offenbacher S.: “Periodontal profile class is associated with prevalent diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and systemic markers of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.”, J Periodontol. 2018 Feb;89(2):157-165. doi: 10.1002/JPER.17-0426.
- Costa TH, de Figueiredo Neto JA, de Oliveira AE, Lopes e Maia Mde F, de Almeida AL.: “Association between chronic apical periodontitis and coronary artery disease.”, J Endod. 2014 Feb;40(2):164-7. doi: 10.1016/j.joen.2013.10.026.