Did you know that oral health is directly linked to the health of your entire body? Today guest blogger, Richard, shares with us how plaque build up can be detrimental to our heart health.
Many people are aware of the connection between plaque and oral diseases, but the link between heart health and oral health may be less well-known. Researchers have found that poor oral health can increase the risk of serious, life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, and several studies have highlighted the importance of good oral health for good general health.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colourless film-like substance, which forms in the mouth when bacteria join forces with food debris and saliva. You can often feel plaque on your teeth when you wake up first thing in the morning and feel your teeth with your tongue. Plaque can be easily removed with a toothbrush or by flossing, but if it is left on the teeth, it hardens and forms tartar. Tartar is a brown, hard substance, which cannot be removed by brushing.
Plaque is very harmful for your teeth and gums because it contains bacteria. When you eat, these bacteria start to feed and this causes them to release acids, known as plaque acids. These acids irritate the gums and they also damage the enamel. The enamel is the protective outer surface of the teeth and once it is damaged or worn, there is a high risk of cavities forming.
How is plaque linked to heart health?
Several studies have now suggested that there is a link between heart health and oral health. Researchers believe that bacteria in the mouth, which are responsible for gum disease, can lead to atherosclerosis, which is a major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. This condition occurs when fatty deposits collect in the arteries and may lead to reduced blood flow.
Scientists believe that bacteria from the mouth can trigger an inflammatory response in other parts of the body, as they are able to travel through the bloodstream. A study published in the American Academy of Periodontology found that people who have periodontal disease, the most advanced form of gum disease, are up to twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, while another study suggested that oral health status can be as important an indicator for heart disease as cholesterol levels.
How to prevent plaque build-up
The good news about plaque is that it can be prevented and it can be removed very simply. If you stick to a good daily oral hygiene routine, you should find that you are able to prevent plaque formation and remove any plaque that does stick to your teeth effectively. Brushing twice a day and flossing wipe away plaque and polish the teeth and clean the mouth and remove bacteria to prevent future build-up.
Some areas of the mouth, including the narrow gaps between the teeth and the gum line, are prone to plaque collection, so take extra care to cover these areas when you are brushing, flossing or using inter-dental brushes. Straighter teeth can be cleaned much easier than crooked teeth and you can use modern brace systems to do this discreetly, such as Invisalign.
Diet is also really important, as some foods contribute to an increased risk of acid erosion, decay and gum disease. Try to avoid eating sugary and acidic foods, especially between meals, as this can contribute to accelerated enamel wear. When you eat, the bacteria in the mouth release acids, which temporarily soften the enamel and it takes around one hour for the enamel to remineralise; if you eat during the day, this means that there is never a chance for remineralisation to occur. After eating, try to wait around one hour before brushing your teeth to avoid damaging the protective enamel.
About the Author
‘Richard is a Manchester based writer focusing on health and dental care. Currently he is working with the dental professionals at www.harleystreetorthodontics.co.uk to educate people on the importance of straighter to teeth for heart health.’
Have you heard of other ways oral health can affect the general health of our bodies?