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Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart?

Though the link between dental health and heart health is not completely clear, experts say it’s important to take care of both.

The Consensus: No Consensus

Although the report was a consensus of sorts, the link is far from definitive, experts say.

"At this point, there is a consensus that we are still unaware of solid science to show a direct link [between heart health and oral health] with the exception of two areas," Low says. These are:

  • Bacteria found in both health problems are similar. "The bacteria we find in gum disease we also find in blood vessels that are going through atherosclerosis," Low says. "There are several types."
  • Inflammation is another common denominator for both diseases. When people have moderate to severe gum disease, their levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that rises during whole-body inflammation, increase. CRP levels are also used to assess a person's risk of a heart attack.

Advice for a Healthy Heart and Gums

Bonow and Low say health-conscious people should take care of oral health and heart health. ''There are all kinds of reasons why you want people to take care of their heart health and their dental hygiene too, " Bonow says. "But it doesn't mean taking care of one is going to prevent the other."

The joint report also made these recommendations:

  • Dentists should tell patients with moderate to severe gum disease that they may have an increased risk for heart and blood vessel problems. People who have moderate to severe gum disease and a known risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking, should consider getting a medical evaluation if it's been one year or longer since their last one.
  • Physicians and their dentists should work together to focus on reducing heart disease risk and ensuring good periodontal care for patients with heart disease and gum disease.
  • Patients with heart disease who also have signs or symptoms of gum disease (but have not yet been diagnosed with it) or a high CRP level should get a periodontal evaluation.
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Reviewed on September 25, 2009

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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