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Inflammation in our Gums and Heart Disease

The Inflammation Connection: What’s the link between periodontal disease and CVD?

Very sophisticated studies have demonstrated a strong similarity between the amount of inflammation in our gums and the amount of inflammation in the major arteries of the neck and the heart’s largest artery, the aorta. That’s dangerous because inflammation is the key player in destabilizing plaque in the artery walls, explaining why some people with relatively little buildup experience plaque rupture and subsequent strokes or heart attacks, while others with substantial deposits never suffer these events. Studies are now revealing that most plaques in the carotid artery actually contain many of the germs known to cause periodontal disease (PD).

Gum disease isn’t the only inflammatory disorder that can raise your heart attack or stroke risk. Inflammation is cholesterol’s partner in crime, multiplying cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. When elevated levels of LDL start to burrow inside the blood vessel walls, it sparks an inflammatory response, which is believed to accelerate cholesterol buildup. This in turn triggers more inflammation, creating a vicious circle.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Take Care of Your Teeth. A habit that takes five minutes a day can add years to your life and also reduces risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, colds, flu, and even arthritis. A 2012 study found that one of the simplest—and cheapest—ways to a long life is brushing and flossing your teeth daily. Conversely, neglecting your chompers can actually be fatal, the researchers reported. Just how much impact does good oral health have? California researchers tracked 5,611 seniors for 17 years, and found that: Never brushing at night boosted the risk for death during the study period by 20 to 25 percent, compared to brushing every night. Never flossing hiked mortality risk by 30 percent, versus daily flossing. Not seeing a dentist in the previous 12 months raised the risk of death by up to 50 percent, compared to getting dental care two or more times a year. Another startling finding: One major predictor of early death was missing teeth, even after other risk factors were taken into account, the study reported. That’s powerful motivation to see your dentist regularly and fight heart disease with a toothbrush and floss.

Periodontal disease. There seems to be a two-way link: Periodontal disease worsens insulin resistance, and having IR raises the threat of developing gum disease, too. Sleep deficiency. A recent study reported that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night are three times more likely to develop prediabetes, while a number of studies link skimping on slumber to significantly higher risk for both insulin resistance and diabetes. We can treat both of these issues. We have minimally invasive gum treatments and provide appliances that stop snoring.