Floss to Prevent Heart Disease

That’s right. It’s not just what you put into your mouth that counts. How you take care of it is also important. There is increasing evidence linking dental and gum disease with heart disease, stroke and overall health.

This isn’t strictly news. The evidence for this link has been around for at least three years. In 2006 I wrote a newsletter issue on heart disease. In that issue I referred to this link. What is news is that the link has been studied further and the evidence continues to mount.

In a March, 2008 article by Victoria Elliot in the American Medical Association online news, a plea was made for increased attention to oral health by physicians. Today the American Health Association published an online article on inflammation, heart disease and stroke.

How does inflammation, particularly gum inflammation, affect the heart?

Studies are finding that inflammation plays an important part in the development of atherosclerosis, that fatty buildup which narrows arteries. Some studies indicate that an infection may even cause atherosclerosis. It’s hypothesized that bacteria from diseased gums (or other chronically infected areas) enters the blood stream and begins a generalized inflammatory/anti-inflammatory response in the body. This response may be linked to the laying down of fatty deposits in the arteries.

A measure of the degree of the body’s overall inflammation level is C-reactive protein (CRP). A measure of the degree of inflammation within blood vessels is the high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP). Three years ago the American Heart Association recommended that only individuals at high risk for initial or recurrent coronary events or cardiovascular disease be tested for hs-CRP. However, now the recommendation is that individuals at intermediate risk for heart disease have their CRP level checked. Individuals who have known heart disease and those at high risk for heart disease should be treated aggressively regardless of their CRP level.

So, preventing gum disease through good oral hygiene is another measure you can take to prevent heart disease. If you have gum disease, work with your dentist/hygienist to reduce or eliminate it.

Have any infection or inflammation evaluated by your healthcare provider. It will do your heart good.

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1 Response to “Floss to Prevent Heart Disease”


  1. 1 Mississauga Dentist January 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I certainly believe that gum disease could lead to other problems with your physical health. We all need to be more aware of problems that can exist starting with the mouth! thank you for this Mary Lou!


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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN

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