More and more evidence demonstrates that there is a link between gum disease and atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. This narrowing of the arteries is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that an improvement in gum health reflected slower rate of plaque accumulation in the arteries.
One study followed 420 adults who were evaluated on the basis of their oral health, specifically gum health, and plaque build-up in their carotid arteries located in the neck. After three years, improvements in their periodontal (gum) health and a reduction in the proportion of bacteria linked with gum disease were associated with a slower rate of accumulation of plaque in the carotid arteries.
In another study, aimed at determining if there is a causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. Inflammation caused by gum disease may also trigger clot formation. Clots decrease blood flow to the heart, thereby causing an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Practicing good dental hygiene can affect one’s overall health, particularly heart health. Remember to brush twice daily, floss daily and visit Dr. Jekel twice a year to ensure optimum oral health. To assess your heart risk, take a short heart risk assessment quiz http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/HeartAttackToolsResources/Heart-Attack-Risk-Assessment_UCM_303944_Article.jsp.