Dangers of Plaque & Gingivitis to Your Health, Part 1:
Sticky bacterial plaque that builds up on your teeth. Inflamed, bleeding gums. They don’t just threaten your dental health. A growing body of research finds that bacteria and inflammation in your mouth are also associated with other problems, including heart attack and dementia, and may well jeopardize your overall health. Scientists have identified several associations between poor oral health and other health problems — although they can’t yet establish cause and effect. This list of health problems has been growing as research continues.
Plaque and Its Effects on Your Dental Health:
Sticky plaque is a kind of biofilm. A thin grouping of bacteria, plaque biofilm lives on gum tissue, teeth, and crowns. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods or beverages with sugars or starches, the bacteria release acids that attack your tooth enamel. The plaque is so sticky that it keeps the acids in contact with your teeth, in time breaking down the enamel so that tooth decay occurs. Plaque buildup can also lead to gum disease — first gingivitis, the tender and swollen gums that sometimes bleed. If it progresses, severe periodontal (gum) disease can develop. Gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to destroy the underlying bone supporting the teeth.
Periodontal and Other Diseases:
To date, scientists have found associations between periodontal disease and a number of other problems, including:
What’s behind the links? Experts can’t say for certain, but they believe that oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and injure major organs.
Inflammation is probably a common denominator, experts say. Periodontal disease, marked by inflammation, may increase inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation, in turn, is an underlying problem in diseases including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease:
Over the years, many studies have found an association between periodontal disease and heart disease, with patients who have gum disease more likely also to have poor heart health, including heart attacks. In 2009, a consensus paper on the relationship between heart disease and gum disease was developed by the American Academy of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology. It was published in the Journal of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology.
The joint recommendations encourage cardiologists to ask their patients about any gum disease problems, and the periodontists to ask their patients about any family history of heart disease and their heart health.
So don’t be surprised if your periodontist or your internist or cardiologist asks you some new questions on your next visit.
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