Regular flossing removes plaque and bacteria from between your teeth, helping to fight gum disease and tooth decay. But did you know the nasty bacteria that take up residence in those hard-to-reach places isn't just damaging to your teeth and gums? A growing body of research suggests that flossing to protect against gum disease also may help prevent heart disease, certain cancers, and dementia.
Studies point to a link between gum disease and atherosclerotic vascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Bacteria that grow in your mouth from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream through the gums. Exactly how oral bacteria in the bloodstream contribute to heart disease isn't clear, but there is one thing experts know for certain. Anything in your arteries that blocks the flow of blood can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Some researchers speculate these bacteria trigger the body's immune response, causing inflammation. The swelling may narrow arteries, which increases the risk of blood clots. Once in the bloodstream, disease-causing oral bacteria also can travel to the heart where they can cause endocarditis -- an infection of a heart valve when harmful bacteria attach to heart tissue. Streptococcus gordonii, a common oral bacteria that contribute to the formation of dental plaque, make it easier for blood clots to form inside blood vessels. These abnormal clots can block blood flow to the heart.
Cancer of the Pancreas
Flossing your teeth may help prevent cancer. The findings of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest that gum disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. One possible explanation is that inflammation from periodontal disease leads to systemic inflammation, which may contribute to cancer of the pancreas and other cancers. Another contributing factor may be that people with gum disease have higher levels of certain infection-causing bacteria in their mouth.
Gum disease may contribute to the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease, concludes a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The study found that individuals with antibodies in their blood to fight periodontal disease were more likely than people without the antibodies to develop dementia later in life. Researchers think oral bacteria that gets in the bloodstream may cause inflammation of brain cells, which can lead to nerve cell damage. However, future research is needed to explore the link between poor dental hygiene and dementia. But even without more research, it makes good sense to brush and floss regularly to help get rid of the bad bacteria in your mouth that can be harmful to your teeth, gums, and the rest of your body.
To keep your teeth in tip-top shape, visit a dental office such as Courtyard Dental Care for a checkup.