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Heart attacks and strokes are often caused by a build-up in the arteries of a substance called plaque. Plaque blocks the arteries, restricting the ability of blood to flow to organs and tissue in your body.
You might be most familiar with the term plaque from a trip to the dentist’s office. It is only natural to wonder, “Is plaque in the mouth the same thing as plaque in the arteries?” The simple answer is no, but there may be a connection between the two.
Arterial plaque is a deposit of fat, cholesterol, calcium and scar tissue that develops in the artery wall. Plaque in the mouth is a bacterial film that builds up on teeth.
While the two types of plaque are very different, patients with gum disease do seem to have nearly twice the risk of also having heart disease. One theory is that bacteria from the mouth travel in the bloodstream to the arteries, where it damages the artery lining and contributes to arterial plaque build-up, possibly through inflammation.
Researchers do not yet understand the link between cardiovascular disease and gum disease. However, if you are prone to either, managing one disease may help you manage the other one. Be sure to work with your physician to monitor your cardiovascular health and see your dentist regularly.