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    Dangers of Plaque & Gingivitis to Your Health

    Sticky bacterial plaque that builds up on your teeth and inflamed, bleeding gums do more than just threaten your dental health.

    A growing body of research finds that bacteria and inflammation in your mouth are also linked to other problems, including heart attack and dementia, and may well jeopardize your overall health.

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    Scientists have identified several links between poor oral health and other health problems -- although they can't yet establish cause and effect. This list of health problems has been growing as research continues.

    Plaque and Its Effects on Your Dental Health

    Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods or beverages with sugars or starches, the bacteria release acids that attack your tooth enamel.

    The plaque is so sticky that it keeps the acids in contact with your teeth, in time breaking down the enamel and leading to tooth decay.

    Plaque buildup can also lead to gum disease -- first gingivitis, the tender and swollen gums that sometimes bleed. If it progresses, severe periodontal (gum) disease can develop. Gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to destroy the underlying bone supporting the teeth.

    Periodontal and Other Diseases

    To date, scientists have found links between periodontal disease and a number of other problems, including:

    What's behind the links? Experts can't say for certain, but they believe that oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and injure major organs.

    Inflammation is probably a common denominator, experts say. Periodontal disease, marked by inflammation, may increase inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation, in turn, is an underlying problem in diseases including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Gum Disease and Heart Disease

    Over the years, many studies have found that people with gum disease are more likely to also have poor heart health, including heart attacks.

    A 2009 paper on the relationship between heart disease and gum disease was issued by the American Academy of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology. Its joint recommendations encourage cardiologists to ask their patients about any gum disease problems. In addition, periodontists are encouraged to ask their patients about any family history of heart disease as well as their own heart health.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    Good
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    You are currently

    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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