For years people have be told how important oral hygiene is to ward off dental problems such as tooth decay, cavities and gum disease. Practicing the behavior of brushing, flossing and dental visits is a sure-fire way to lower levels of dental plaque (the waste by-product of oral bacteria) and improve dental health the behavior has also been linked to improving general health, specifically related to heart disease. Scientists have recently shared news denouncing the gum/heart health connection as a myth.
There are countless studies that have previously linked to gum disease with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. However after the review of 500 journal studies, an American Heart Association committee has proclaimed that there is no correlation between bad gums and heart health.
The American Heart Association committee that made the recent proclamation was comprised of doctors, dentists and infectious-disease researchers. One member, Dr. Peter Lockhart, a professor of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C addressed their findings by saying "The message sent out by some in health care professions – that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease – can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus of prevention away from well-known risk factors for these diseases," (http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/18/11271636-no-proof-bad-gums-cause-heart-trouble-experts-say?lite).
The researchers have said while it may be "biologically plausible" for oral infections to trigger heart disease, there are other common factors that are more likely the cause for heart issues. The committee sited cigarette smoking, age and diabetes as additional (and more common) factors that link blood vessel illnesses with the mouth.
As defined by 1-800-DENTIST, dental plaque is the "..sticky invisible film that accumulates on your teeth -- on the biting surfaces, in the spaces between the teeth, and along the gum line," and comprised of over 400 types of bacterium. According to research entitled "Periodontal Microbiota and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness" (Moise Desvarieux, et. al) there is a direct correlation between dental plaque, tooth decay and heart disease. "Blood flow through the arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle slows," causing heart attacks. The specific bacterium that creates this arterial plaque has a link to tooth decay causing bacteria.
A study from England found a short-lived correlation between invasive dental procedures (such as dental surgery) and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the team has suggested that invasive dental work can raise the level of oral bacteria that is normally fine in a healthy mouth. Surgery may be required to properly treat advanced periodontal disease and that can increase the odds of the oral bacteria entering the bloodstream and potentially lead to heart issues.
Despite the most recent findings, individuals concerned about heart disease are advised to still continue practicing good oral hygiene, but back up that behavior by modifying unhealthy actions such as smoking or eating an unhealthy diet (a major contributor to Type 2 Diabetes). While the committee has not found any hard proof of the gum health and heart disease, they do admit that dental treatments of gum disease can lower the markers of body inflammation, and oral hygiene is essential for fighting gum disease.
1-800-DENTIST recommends that individuals brush twice a day, floss once a day and get regular dental exams and cleanings every six months. The process will allow a professional dentist to remove dental plaque and hard to remove dental tartar. This behavior can help individuals decrease their odds of developing health and dental problems down the road. Consumers looking to find a dentist can count on 1-800-DENTIST to make it so.