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    Brush Your Teeth, Help Your Heart

    Healthy Gums Could Help Dodge Heart Disease
    By
    WebMD Health News

    Feb. 7, 2005 -- Brushing your teeth could help you avoid heart disease. Having clean teeth and healthy gums may cut your chances of atherosclerosis.

    That could make your toothbrush a weapon against heart disease and stroke. Keep that in mind as you get ready to celebrate matters of the heart this Valentine's Day.

    Gingivitis is an infection of the gums usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Gums become inflamed, swollen, and bleed. Bacteria within plaque (which forms on teeth) lead to chronic inflammation of the gum line and tooth loss. Chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Every day, an estimated 2,600 people in the U.S. die of heart disease, says the American Heart Association. That's an average of one death every 34 seconds. Every 45 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke - or about 700,000 people this year.

    Heart attack and stroke can strike anyone. Each year, heart disease kills 150,000 people younger than 65, says the AHA.

    Mouth-Heart Link

    The new study was conducted by Moise Desvarieux, MD, PhD, and colleagues. It appears in the Feb. 8 issue of the journal Circulation.

    Previous research has also found that brushing, flossing, and taking care of your teeth and gums is good for your heart. But those studies examined topics like tooth loss, and not the mouth's bacteria, say the researchers.

    Participants were 657 Hispanic, black, or white New Yorkers. All were at least 55 years old. None had suffered a stroke, heart attack, or chronic inflammatory condition. To ensure economic diversity, subjects were enrolled from five zip codes in northern Manhattan.

    Participants kept records of tooth brushing and flossing during the study, and their mouths were examined. They reported smoking and physical activity habits, and had blood samples taken for measurements of inflammation.

    The participants' blood vessel wall thickness was also measured. The thickness of the carotid artery wall -- the neck's major artery -- is used as a measure of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown this to be associated with coronary heart disease and stroke risk.

    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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