What is the link between flossing and heart disease?

People spend a tremendous amount of money in order to prevent Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). They take cholesterol medication, buy fitness equipment, go on elaborate diets, and get gym memberships. The entire time they are ignoring what is under their nose that they can purchase for about five dollars. That would be their toothbrush and floss. Most dentists give this to their patients for free at their recare visit.

Periodontal disease is caused by the accumulation of plaque along the surface of the gums and in the pocket that is around the teeth. Plaque is a sticky residual of bacteria acid, food particles that irritate gums, and eats away tooth structure. Plaque takes twenty-four hours to form in the mouth. That is why proper tooth brushing and flossing is mandatory at least once daily.

In the periodontium that is healthy it is normal to have gram-positive aerobic bacteria. When the periodontium becomes diseased there is a shift to gram-negative anaerobic bacteria. The two bacteria associated with period disease are actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitams and porphyromonas gingivitis. There are other bacteria in a diseased periodontal pocket but these two are the main culprits in periodontal disease.

Scientists in Germany, a Dr. Schaeffer and colleagues, at the University of Kiel, have linked a gene that is in common with periodontal disease and CHD. On May 26 of 2009, they presented that they found a gene, chromosome 9 whose variant is shared between gum and heart disease. There has also been found a C-reactive protein in the serum that has been a very indicative marker for heart disease, found in the infected periodontium. 

The mechanism has been explained in theory only. The bacteria in diseased pockets go through the blood stream and land on sclerotic plaques in the arteries. This in turn causes an inflammatory reaction causing swelling and constricting blood vessels. This in turn presents a risk with blood clots going through the blood stream. Hence a heart attack or stroke may result.

The mouth seems to be a direct pipeline to the rest of the body through the bloodstream. This makes sense when you think of bacterial endocarditis that results sometimes as a result of dental work without premedication. 

Remember, your health is your responsibility. You need to eat right, exercise, and floss and brush. Your doctors can only guide you. 
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
There is a direct link between flossing and the prevention of heart disease. Countless studies have proven that poor dental cleaning and a lack of flossing can lead to heart disease. Researchers recently found that diseased gums released higher levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components into the bloodstream. These components can find their way to other organs, like the heart, and increase their risk of failure.
Research suggests a link between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, though no one can say for sure whether gum disease actually causes heart attacks. It's possible that bacteria from the mouth can travel to arteries in the heart, triggering inflammation that increases heart attack risk. Or that gum disease causes body-wide inflammation, which similarly may increase the risk of heart attack. Studies have shown that patients had improved blood flow after a periodontal cleaning, which may indicate that healthier teeth and gums can lead to better overall health.

At this time, it's not clear whether flossing will help prevent heart disease. But it will help you maintain good oral health.
The American Heart Association published a Statement in April 2012 supporting an association between gum disease and heart disease. The article noted that current scientific data do not indicate if regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease will decrease the incidence, rate or severity of the narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.

Flossing is one important way you can help maintain good health and potentially avoid gum disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.