Oral Bacteria & Your Overall Health

As dentists, we spend lots of time educating our patients about the importance of taking care of their mouth, teeth, and gums. On the surface, we want to help you prevent bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease—all with the goal of helping you protect your teeth as you grow older. In addition to our work, researchers are discovering new reasons to brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly. They are learning that having a healthy mouth can ward off more serious medical conditions at any stage in your life. An unhealthy mouth may increase your risk of health problems such as preterm labor, poorly controlled diabetes, and even heart attack and stroke.

Take it from Ashley, RDH, one of FDA’s own dental hygienists: “The mouth is a window to the rest of the body,” Ashley explains. “Oftentimes we see changes arise in the mouth before they are evident elsewhere in the body. Maintaining optimal oral health is crucial to overall health. Since the mouth is connected to the body we recognize that chronic inflammation or presence of disease isn’t just localized to the oral cavity, but has the potential to be linked to underlying conditions.”

Just as Ashley explains, your mouth can play a crucial role in learning more about your overall health. In fact, saliva is a great tool that can help detect a variety of substances such as certain cancer markers, cortisol levels, and can even be used to monitor bone loss in those prone to osteoporosis. Saliva is also a main defense against disease-causing organisms as it contains antibodies that can attack both viral pathogens and bacteria. However, saliva can’t always get the job done completely. Over 500 different species of bacteria thrive in your mouth at any given time and constantly form dental plaque. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, this plaque builds up along your gum line, opening the door for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and teeth. This build-up leads to gingivitis, and can potentially lead to periodontitis.

Our gums are vascular and full of blood, so infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis can happen quickly. Once that gum layer is disrupted due to brushing, flossing, or an invasive dental treatment, bacteria can enter in the bloodstream, travel to any area of the body and potentially cause inflammation. Inflammation in the heart causes hardened arteries, or atherosclerosis, making it harder for blood to flow to the heart, increasing one’s chance of heart attack and stroke. Oral bacteria can also enter your bloodstream and stick to the lining of diseased heart valves, causing infective endocarditis.

Another important connection between oral health and overall health is that the bacteria connected to periodontal disease, streptococcus sanguis, plays a role in strokes. This bacteria can quickly spread to the heart through the gums, potentially causing a stroke. There is research to suggest that people with gum infections are at an increased risk of stroke and researchers mention that the more severe the infection, the greater the risk of stroke appears to be.

While the American Heart Association says there is no definitive, direct evidence that heart disease can be prevented by working to prevent gum disease, that doesn’t mean that it can’t help. That’s one reason why regular dental check-ups are important at any age.When was the last time you visited us? Schedule an appointment to get your gums checked out today!

Can Brushing and Flossing Help Prevent Heart Disease?

February is American Heart Month. Sadly, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Did you know that there are some studies that suggest a link between oral health and heart disease? While the studies aren’t conclusive yet, many have shown that gum disease, in particular, can be associated with heart disease. The American Academy of Periodontology, for example, found that those with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease.

Some of our hygienists recently attended a course on this possible link between heart disease and oral health in Boston. One possible reason for this connection is that bacteria from the mouth can enter into the bloodstream through the gums, the same bacteria found clumped in artery plaques. Of course, it’s too early to say that avid tooth brushing and flossing can prevent heart disease. But it certainly can’t hurt.

Check out this video from the American Heart Association, “10 Years of Fighting Heart Disease in Women”

can brushing and flossing prevent heart disease

National Women’s Heart Health Day

I-heart-my-heartOn February 7th our office wore red in honor of National Women’s Heart Health Day. Heart problems – like heart attack and stroke – are the number one cause of death of women around the globe. We have participated in the movement for 2 consecutive years now and we plan to continue doing so to continue to spread awareness in hopes to save just one life. This blog post is dedicated to educate you on ways that you can “Know Your Risk” to keep yourself and other women in your life safe, as well ways in which you can join the movement. Please enjoy and know that together we can make a difference.

First order of business is for you to “Know Your Risk.” You may not even know that you are at risk for heart attack, stroke, or other heart conditions. That is a large part of what makes this so scary. Family history, eating habits, and sleep patterns are a few of the key factors that could raise a woman’s risk of heart disease. Knowing what puts you at risk and being proactive by fighting those risks could save your life!

So you may be asking… “What are the risks?”

As we mentioned before, family history, eating habits, and sleep patterns are a few, but it doesn’t end there. Weight, body mass index, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels in your blood are all things that put you at risk for heart disease.

Now that you know what the risks are, you may be asking, “How and when should I test for those things?”

Here are some guidelines from the American Heart Association that will help you answer those questions.

  • Blood pressure – every regular health care visit starting at age 20
  • Cholesterol – every five years starting at age 20. More often if: total cholesterol is above 200; if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 50; if you’re a woman whose HDL is less than 50 or a man whose HDL is less than 40; if you have other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Weight/body mass index – every health care visit starting at age 20
  • Waist circumference – as needed starting at age 20
  • Blood glucose – every three years starting at age 45

You can start right now by assessing yourself by clicking this link to start your health checkup: https://www.goredforwomen.org/know-your-risk/find-out-your-risk/heart-checkup/

Join the “Go Red” movement

go red for womenOftentimes, people don’t participate in these sorts of things because they do not know how to start to get involved. Not knowing where to begin can be scary and add stress to your already stressful life. But just think of the potential implications if you don’t join…

Joining this movement is easy. It starts with taking care of yourself. Then you can take care of your loved ones. Then, before you know it, you are an advocate for Heart Health everywhere you go.

Here are 10 ways that you can “Go Red” provided by the American Heart Association:

  1. Know Your Heart Score
  2. Live Healthy
  3. Know the Signs of a Heart Attack
  4. Start Walking
  5. Wear Red
  6. Host a ‘Wear Red Day’ Event
  7. Help your Community Go Red
  8. Go Red Online
  9. Shop for the Cause
  10. Support Go Red

It doesn’t always have to be extravagant or a monumental event to be helpful and beneficial. Every little bit helps, and it especially helps you! Get the list in more detail by clicking this link to it’s page on the American Heart Association website!

Also, check out this video! http://vimeo.com/85786476