Most of us are aware of the need to keep our teeth healthy, both for the aesthetic appeal of even, white teeth, as well as to prevent cavities and the need for more extensive dental work. Yet neglecting one’s teeth can have even more serious consequences, something that most people are probably not aware of.
One aspect of one’s health that can be seriously and adversely impacted by poor dental hygiene involves the heart. There are several ways in which this can occur. First, when people aren’t as diligent as they should be about brushing and flossing their teeth, bacteria can first accumulate between teeth, and then make their way into the bloodstream. Just as these bacteria are responsible for plaque buildup on one’s teeth, so too are they responsible for contributing to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, thus clogging them. This can lead to atherosclerosis, which is what happens when the arteries become narrow and damaged.
If this narrowing occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, it can deprive the heart of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to work normally, possibly leading to a heart attack. Arteries supplying blood to the brain can also be affected by atherosclerosis. If a blood clot becomes lodged in a narrowed artery, blood flow to part of the brain may be stopped, causing a stroke.
Furthermore, diseased gums release significantly higher levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components such as endotoxins into the bloodstream. These endotoxins can travel to other organs in the body, including the heart, leading to endocarditis, or an infection of the heart lining.
Another warning sign that there may be significant underlying problems that could affect one’s heart health is that of a persistent toothache, which could signal an infection. If the infection is bad enough, it could mean that there is an infected root canal, which can lead to heart disease even in otherwise health people. How so? Well, an infected root canal happens when the nerves inside the root canal of a tooth die as a result of infection, and the body is unable to cure the infection. The surrounding live tissue will become inflamed in an effort to prevent the infection from spreading, but the dead tissue means that the body can’t fight off the infection. As a result, there is a constant source of bacteria entering your body, which can only be fixed via a root canal treatment.
Recent studies have confirmed the importance of good oral hygiene as it relates to heart health, as data has shown that people who never or rarely brush their teeth were 70% more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who brush their teeth twice a day.