Regular flossing, good oral hygiene saves lives
By Lt. Col. Linda S. Kelly, DMD, 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron
/ Published March 30, 2006
PITTSBURGH AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- I am certain that many of you visit your dentist regularly and receive the lecture on brushing and flossing daily, but despite your good intent have failed to floss regularly. Now new clinical evidence gives you reason to try harder.
Recent studies in medical journals, like the Journal of the American Medical Association, link dental diseases such as periodontal (gum) disease to chronic cardiovascular disease.
Although mild periodontal disease like gingivitis affects 75 percent of the population, nearly 20 percent of the adults in the United States have the more severe form. It is this severe form that is implicated as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease placing those individuals at a three-fold increased risk.
Periodontal disease is an infection caused by bacteria found in the dental plaque that forms on your teeth and gums. The more severe form, called periodontitis, can result in inflammation, bleeding gums and gradual loss of bone around your teeth. Left untreated these periodontal bacteria can travel throughout the blood stream and have been found in atherosclerotic plaques. Also, periodontal bacteria can cause the production of C-reactive protein, which is a predictor for heart attacks and strokes.
In a number of ways, then, periodontal bacteria can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that periodontal disease is treatable. Good oral hygiene on a daily basis, as well as regular visits to your dentist are the first steps in preventive maintenance. Also, by following the dentist’s recommendations if periodontal treatment is indicated, you can perhaps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. So, maybe flossing can save your life!
NOTE: Dr. Linda S. Kelly is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pa.