If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, it might be time to go. Research shows oral health is related to healthy heart and brain.
The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Heart Health and stroke
Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. But periodontal disease can be a risk factor.
Gum disease begins when the sticky, bacteria-laden film dentists refer to as plaque builds up around teeth. A completely different type of plaque made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in blood can build up inside arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this fatty plaque is the hallmark of coronary artery disease. This atherosclerotic plaque causes the arteries to narrow, constricting blood flow. Oxygen is restricted from traveling to the heart that results in shortness of breath, chest pain, and even heart attack.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly stopped. Strokes occur in the brain when a blood clot prevents oxygen from getting to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
It might not seem obvious, at first, how gum disease and heart health are related, but it all comes down to inflammation, or the swelling of infected tissues. Inflammation leads to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
One of the causes of the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease is oral bacteria entering the bloodstream, which they can enter while chewing or brushing your teeth. After entering the bloodstream these may attach to the fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. This attachment leads to clot formation and increased risk to a variety of issues including heart attack and stroke.
Inflammation caused by periodontal disease creates an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive proteins (CRP). Elevated CRP levels lead to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots.
More research uncovered a relationship that the more of periodontal disease bacteria you have, the thicker your carotids (neck arteries) are, and the harder it is for your blood to flow to your brain—and we know that a lack of blood to the brain is what directly causes strokes.
When it comes to your general health, good oral hygiene matters.