It starts as a slimy coating of bacteria. And if you don’t deal with it quickly enough, you could be in for some big problems.
I’m not talking about the pipes in your home or even the kitchen countertops, but a much germier place — your mouth!
Sure, having movie-star white teeth is great. But there are some much more important issues going on where your mouth is concerned… and they involve your gums.
Millions and millions of bacteria create a “biofilm” on your teeth — better-known to us as “plaque” — and once it starts to burrow below your gum line, you’re risking much more than just bad breath.
Neglecting your gums, some new research has found, can significantly up your chances of having a disabling or deadly stroke.
Over a century ago, an article in the Lancet noted that more and more doctors and dentists back then believed that germs in the mouth played a “significant role” in many different diseases of the body.
Those docs were onto something, all right. But it’s taken us 126 years after that article appeared to finally learn the rest of the story!
The most recent research looking into the mouth for clues about our health has found a shocking connection between gum disease and stroke.
Researchers at the South Carolina School of Medicine discovered that the worse someone’s periodontal disease is, the bigger their risk of suffering a stroke.
But don’t think you’re off the hook if your gums just bleed a little bit and don’t seem that bad. Because even so-called “mild” gum disease can practically double your risk.
The South Carolina researchers analyzed the data on nearly 7,000 people who were followed for 15 years. They found that two types of “ischemic” strokes (which are caused by blood clots), appear to be the most common kind linked to poor gum health.
And the connection was strong even after accounting for other factors among the study participants, such as their age and overall health.
But stroke, as frightening as it is, isn’t the only complication of periodontal problems.
Links to other diseases — ranging from breast and pancreatic cancer, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s — have also been uncovered.
And one of the more detailed studies done just last year by scientists at Johns Hopkins found evidence that a particular type of mouth bacteria may be the cause of rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers said that this microbe can start a “cascade of events” that can trigger our immune system to malfunction.
Other studies have found that an infection in the root tip of a tooth can TRIPLE your risk of heart disease. And yet another discovered that those who skip dental check-ups are close to 90 percent more likely to come down with bacterial pneumonia, compared to those who have checkups twice a year.
It’s pretty clear that your dental health should be right up there with the same degree of importance as you would give to having your heart checked or keeping tabs on your blood pressure.
But while a toothache can make itself loud and clear, gum disease isn’t always as obvious. It can include signs such as:
- gums that bleed when you brush your teeth,
- gums that are swollen or hurt when you touch them,
- loose teeth, and
- receding gum tissue.
Even if just the idea of going to the dentist is enough to make you anxious, the stakes are obviously too high to ignore — especially if you’re having signs of gum disease already.
Aside from seeing your dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning, there are lots of ways to care for your gums at home. Flossing every day is a must. Also, using a rubber-tip gum stimulator (don’t be shocked if your gums bleed at first if you’ve never used one before!), a dental water irrigator — like the Waterpik — and a good fluoride-free mouthwash with aloe vera.
In that case, putting your money where your mouth is could actually be the best investment you can make in your health.
“More evidence ties gum health to stroke risk” Karen Pallarito, February 23, 2017, HealthDay News, upi.com