The Mouth/Artery Plaque Connection

You know you need to take good care of your gums. After all, without your gums, you would quickly lose your teeth. However, there is another good reason to care for your gums beyond potential tooth loss. Researchers have discovered several possible links between periodontal (gum) health and overall health. One of these links has to do with oral plaque and arterial plaque.

 

What is Plaque?

Oral plaque is also called biofilm. It is a sticky material coating your teeth and gums that serves as a breeding ground for bacteria. Some of the bacterial species that reproduce on oral plaque are harmful. They secrete acids that contribute to tooth decay. Additionally, these bacteria can cause gum inflammation.

Arterial plaque is not at all the same as oral plaque. They are two completely different substances. Arterial plaque is fatty and largely composed of cholesterol. Build-up of this plaque is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease and resulting heart attacks and other adverse cardiovascular events.

 

The Connection

What’s the possible connection between these two very different types of plaque? The answer is inflammation. Many Canadians have persistent gum disease, characterized by chronic inflammation. Inflammation is part of the immune response and can be useful for resolving infections in the short term. However, chronic inflammation puts a burden on the body.

Many researchers now think that long-lasting inflammation from periodontal disease adds to damage from atherosclerosis. This connection has not yet been definitely proven, but cardiologists and dentists alike are warning their patients of the potential dangers. Having healthy gums may not be enough to reverse coronary artery disease, but good periodontal health certainly cannot hurt.

 

Steps to Take

To protect yourself against the consequences of gum disease, known and unknown, be certain that you floss daily and brush your teeth twice daily. Also, consider using an antiseptic mouthwash every day. It is also crucial that you follow up with your dentist at least twice a year and adhere to their advice.

Inform your dentist right away if you run into any signs of gum disease. Symptoms include bleeding gums, gum soreness or swelling, unpleasant breath odor, and oral abscesses or sores.