Where Are We Now?
The missing link between gum disease and heart disease had been brewing for almost a hundred years. Only in recent decades have medical professionals recommended good oral and dental hygiene to prevent heart diseases and improve overall health. So, where are we now? It’s easy to say yes, there’s a link, but to do so would be jumping miles ahead. I will not keep you in the dark for long since this isn’t meant to be a suspense or thriller type of article. There’s no definitive evidence yet to link gum disease with heart disease. This is the same for all the other suspected diseases caused by or linked to gum disease. But…here is where the fun and exciting part begins. Don’t be disappointed that there’s no link yet.
The American Heart Association, after examining all the data and evidence available have concluded that a link was “biologically plausible”. Big guys with big words. Simply put, a link is possible. They also added that there were some gaps to be filled with the current data available. And of course, they called for more research.
Let’s go up north (north of your heart) to your oral cavity. The American Dental Society stated that some studies have suggested a possible link between heart disease and gum disease. In addition, the American Academy of Periodontology stated that people afflicted with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. Why couldn’t they (the three recognized authorities mentioned here) just all have a connection (talk to each other, let one know what the other two are thinking first) and then tell us what they all think at the same time? Okay, it may sound too good to be true.
What the Experts Know
When we say, the experts, these are the guys (okay sorry, research scientists) who conduct the studies needed to establish these links between gum diseases and overall health.
- People with a higher concentration of disease-causing bacteria in the oral cavity have increased chances of having atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the carotid artery (located in the neck). The atherosclerosis is brought about by deposition of substances found in your blood on the walls of the artery. These could decrease the blood flow to your brain and lead to a stroke. That’s not good.
- The disease-causing bacteria in the oral cavity can gain access to your bloodstream if you have severe gum disease. Experts have seen these same bacteria having a ball in your artery plaques. They hypothesized that the bacteria lodge on the plaques located on artery walls. This increases the inflammation and causes more damage. This natural inflammatory response could be another villain which activates the immune system increasing the response by recruiting more cells which can cause clots. On a side note, dental plaques aren’t the same as the plaques located on the walls of your arteries.
- Other noted researchers think that if a direct relationship doesn’t exist, periodontal disease might be a symptom of an underlying heart disease. No one in this world can feel his arteries hardening, but we can clearly see and feel diseased gums if we take notice. Periodontal disease could be a foretaste of things to come (which may be heart disease).
- People (you and me) tend to focus more and feel afraid of developing heart disease. We forget to pay attention to the risk factors which are already established and proven. Heart disease shouldn’t be a driving factor to brush and floss our teeth on a regular basis.
- Before everyone starts to panic, please use some common sense and take a look at the obvious. If you have heart disease or are at risk of developing one, work on the things you can do which have been proven to be effective. Eat healthy foods, get rid of excess weight, exercise regularly, refrain from smoking, and manage other conditions like diabetes. Obvious right? Another obvious thing would be your oral and dental hygiene. Do what you have to do to keep your teeth clean. These are very simple things most people neglect or forget to do.
Lesson to be LearnedFor all we know, by the time that missing and definitive link surfaces, it may be too late for you. All you had to do was pick up your weapons (toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss) and fight. Do it now for your own good and also maybe for the good of your heart and overall health…someday. Taking care of your oral and dental health shouldn’t be a hassle, being ignorant is. Right now, the missing DIRECT link is still missing, but the other pieces of the puzzle are already in place. Stay tuned.