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Dental Care and Its Relationship to Cardiovascular Disease

by : Winston P. McDonald

I was unaware until very recently of the correlation between dental health and diseases of the cardiovascular system. There are even studies that place poor dental health ahead of smoking, high cholesterol levels, lack of exercise and obesity as a risk for cardiovascular disease.

Clearly, proper dental hygiene has taken on a significance that goes far beyond an attractive smile and fresh breath!

What constitutes good dental care? It begins before you ever see a dentist. Follow these practices daily:

● Brush your teeth twice a day-in the morning and before bed-and floss once a day. This removes plaque.

● Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens teeth and helps reduce cavities.

● Avoid foods with high sugar content. Sugar grows plaque.

● Do not use tobacco products. They can cause gum disease or worse!

● Use a tongue cleaner. If you don't have one, use a soft bristled brush and clean from front to back.

In addition to these daily activities, see your dentist on a regular basis for exams and cleanings.

I was interested in finding out which dental problems tied in with what cardiovascular disease, in other words, what the causes and effects were.

A comprehensive study was sponsored in the late 1980's, by the Finnish government, to determine health risks to the Finnish people. They measured many kinds of diseases and then did statistical correlations. Unexpectedly, the data showed a strong correlation between dental disease (specifically, periodontal disease) and stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Taking the study a step further by weighting the data for age, gender, diet etc. it was apparent that periodontal disease was the greatest risk factor for stroke, heart attack and premature death.

This study was later confirmed by studies undertaken in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and Germany.

The effects of periodontal disease are staggering. Studies showed that people with periodontal disease had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease by a factor of 2! Smokers, in comparison, only had a 60% increased risk.

Animal studies have demonstrated quite conclusively that in periodontal disease, bacteria enter the bloodstream and invade heart and vascular endothelial cells and produce vascular calcification (hardening of the arteries). Endothelial cells are a specialized type of epithelial cell which forms the inner layer of blood vessels.

I am absolutely stunned that these facts aren't getting more media attention. Why hasn't the American Dental Association made this correlation between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease better known to the public? It would be good for business, right? In this writer's opinion, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association should be touring the world with these findings. My goodness, look at the paranoia around the world regarding smoking! Smoking is far less a factor in cardiovascular disease than gum disease, yet smoking is getting all the press.

Well, on the plus side, now you know! Tell your friends, family members and coworkers. This is important. Get the word out! This is BIG!