Although we have always been told that healthy eating and exercise are what we need to maintain a healthy heart, a new study finds that there may be another component: brushing your teeth.
A study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE shows a link between periodontal disease like gingivitis and atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty plaque deposits build up in the arteries in the heart. The study was conducted on lab mice by Maria Febbraio, who is a professor in the University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry.
The research showed that the inflammation caused by the bacteria of diseases such as gingivitis can lead to the release of chemicals into the blood. Those chemicals are what contribute to the plaque buildup in arteries. Research also found a new biological target for therapies, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Data published in Statistics Canada in 2008 stated that 29% of all deaths in Canada were due to cardiovascular disease. Of that number, 54% were coronary heart disease, where plaque has hardened and blocks blood flow to the heart, which causes heart attacks. At the same time, according to the Canadian Dental Association, seven out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some point in their lives.
Issues with teeth and gums don’t just affect the mouth — they cause other problems in our bodies, including in the brain. A healthy mouth is so critical to overall health, in fact, that it is actually required in order to qualify for joint replacement surgery, organ transplants or heart surgery.
The study illustrates the importance of education on these topics, and the increased risk people face when they have poor mouth health in conjunction with a high fat diet.