Scientists have come out with findings that encourage better care of our mouths, as it has an effect on our hearts as well.
American and British researchers have combined study results to show that dental treatment for certain conditions can improve blood flow through the arteries and heart, and thereby prevent heart attacks and strokes, which are the biggest killers of developed nations.
The work of these scientists has shown that gum disease or periodontitis has a direct effect on arteries. It was long known that inflammation of the gums is a result of narrowing of the arteries, but till now, there has been was no solid proof.
A group of 120 patients with severe periodontitis were given either a standard or especially intensive course of treatment, which included clearing away bacteria-filled plaque, and the extraction of teeth that were no longer safely rooted in the gum.
At first, the function of blood vessels of intensively treated patients appeared to worsen. But after 60 days they had improved, compared with those of patients given the standard treatment. After 180 days a difference of two per cent was seen between the two groups. It was seen that as the patient's gums became healthier, dilation of the arteries in response to blood-flow was increased.
Says lead author, John Deanfield, of UCL Institute of Child Health, who published the findings in the New England Journal of Medicine: "This is the first time a direct link has been made between treatment for gum disease and improved circulatory function, which is relevant to some of the UK's biggest killers - heart attack and stroke."
Yet exactly how the two conditions are linked is still unknown. Scientists feel that the bacteria that damage the gums may enter the blood stream and cause trouble to the arteries, or it could also be that these bacteria trigger a low-grade inflammatory response throughout the body.
There is now one more reason to encourage brushing and flossing of teeth in children and adults, doing so may ward off gum diseases and keep heart attacks and strokes at bay. And if you do have a gum infection, don't ignore it, treating it may help open up arteries, and increase blood flow through them. You never know, you may then be warding off a stroke or heart attack.