Brushing and Flossing Prevent Heart Disease: New Study

Neglecting to brush and floss allow harmful bacteria in the mouth to travel through the blood stream and potentially contribute to heart disease.

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

Neglecting to brush and floss can cause hardening of the arteries, according to a new study in Scientific American (click to hear the details on NPR). The heart and the mouth may appear to be two very unrelated parts of the body, but they are inextricably linked.

When you eat, bits of food get stuck in the teeth and gums. Bacteria that naturally reside in the mouth are fed by this food and within 20 minutes, excrete waste. The gums are irritated from this waste, which is acidic and toxic. These products are seen as foreign invaders by the body’s immune system and cause the body to respond with inflammation of the gums.

Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of gum disease and heart disease. How to know if you have it? Floss – if your gums bleed even a little, your gums are inflamed.

Flossing disorganizes colonies of bacteria in between and around your teeth. So, if you floss regularly, you escape that constant state of inflammation in your mouth.

Gum disease is manifested not only by infected (and inflamed) gums, but infected bone. An infection in the gums will “seed” the blood stream with deadly bacteria such as the ones that cause strep throat. Once these bugs enter the bloodstream via your mouth, the damage begins in the blood vessels and other organs. They all respond to the invasion by becoming inflamed.

Eliminate the inflammation, and the blood vessels will return to normal. Delay inflammation and you will live longer.

So here’s what to do to reduce inflammation and protect your heart and arteries:

Brush three times daily, and floss (thoroughly) daily.

Eat properly.

Stay away from oxidized cholesterol, like overcooked proteins (barbecued meat). Stay away from sugar and flour. Reduce your consumption of foods cooked at very high temperatures. Do not eat trans fats. A proper diet will optimize your insulin levels. The minute the body has to overcompensate with insulin, inflammation appears in the body.

Take a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement daily.

Optimize your Vitamin D levels.

Take a supplement, no matter how much sun you get. Get measured for Vitamin D levels, as taking a supplement does not guarantee optimal levels.

Take a CoQ10 supplement.

Interesting that coenzyme Q10 is recommended for both gum health and heart health. While you ponder that coincidence, make sure you order some right away. Take at least 100mg a day.

Know what your levels of triglyceride and HDL are.

Measure them yearly. You want low triglycerides and high HDL. Become an expert with your own levels and know how to control the levels. By doing so, you just decreased your chance of heart disease by 16 times!

Check your iron levels.

Men and post menopausal women should check for high iron levels. If you have them, you are oxidizing (aging) rapidly. That’s right, you are suffering from inflammation!

Dentistry and oral health are taking on a new significance in the health care arena, because not only can inflammation in the mouth be a marker for serious systemic disease, but diseases of the mouth will lead to other more serious disease throughout the body (heart disease being one of them). Go ahead and put Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and kidney and liver infections on the same list of diseases. And I’ll go out on a limb by saying that breast cancer and prostate cancer will soon be included on this list. It has not been documented yet, but I believe it will be soon. Is that a good enough reason to floss?

It would be a good idea to see your dentist and hygienist at least yearly to see if your efforts at reducing inflammation are working. Not to make you nervous, but when we see those gums, we know exactly what you’ve been up to!

Mark Burhenne DDS

Learn More: What Exactly Is the Mouth-Body Connection?