bleeding gums

  1. A clean mouth for a healthy heart

    It's no secret that people with clean teeth and healthy gums have a lower risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and two new studies again confirm the link.

    In the first, researchers in Taiwan found that people who get a scaling done less than every two years have a 24-percent lower risk of a heart attack and a 13-percent lower risk of a stroke than people who never get the procedure.

    Now, if you're asking, "what's a scaling," then I'd say you're probably overdue for one.

    It's basically a more intense cleaning that goes between the teeth and under the gums -- and as someone who's spent plenty of time squirming in that vinyl chair, I can tell you that it'll hurt a bit if you've slacked off on the flossing.

    You don't need to get scaled every year to get the benefits, though. The researchers say their review of data on more than 100,000 patients found that those who had the procedure every other year were still 13 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 9 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who never had it done.

    In a second new study, researchers in Sweden found that people who suffer from more gum infections have a 53-percent higher risk of heart attack than those with fewer gum infections, and people who have bleeding gums have a higher risk of stroke.

    The same study found that people who lose 11 teeth or more for whatever reason have a 69-percent higher risk of heart attack than people with all or most of their chompers. Those who lost the most teeth also had a higher risk of congestive heart failure.

    Obviously, you put it all together and it's important to keep your mouth clean -- and not just to avoid bad breath, painful cavities, and the loss of your teeth.

    But don't just rush off to any old dentist. Take the time to find someone who can care for your teeth without the use of fluoride and mercury, and with minimal use of X-rays.

    A good place to start your search is with the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology.

  2. Bleeding gums can kill you

    Minty fresh breath isn't the only reason to keep your mouth clean--good oral hygiene will also help protect your heart.

    While that connection has been confirmed by repeated studies over the years, the reason for it hasn't always been well understood... until now.

    Researchers say they've found the missing link between dental health and cardiovascular risk--and it turns out the same bacteria responsible for toothaches and gum disease are making their way right into your cardiovascular system.

    The problem is the common Streptococcus, the same bacteria that put the "strep" into "strep throat."

    These bacteria are present in the mouth more often that you might want to believe... in fact, they're almost certainly in your mouth right now.

    Don't panic--because in most cases, they're harmless.

    The problems begin when you let your dental health go to pieces. Bleeding gums offer these bacteria easy access to your insides. In fact, you can think of bloody gums as the entrance ramp to the superhighway of your circulatory system.

    And these bacteria are only too happy to hop on and make a beeline for the express lanes.

    Anyone who's seen what too many big trucks do to a highway can appreciate what then starts happening in your arteries: traffic jams. The researchers say the bacteria use a protein on their surface to force the platelets in your blood to clump, creating the clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

    And just to show you how clever these guys are--and why they're so hard to beat--the researchers also found that by causing the clots, the bacteria also create a suit of armor out of platelets, covering them completely and protecting them from antibiotics.

    If that doesn't have you reaching for the floss and mouthwash, I don't know what will.

    Streptococcus isn't the only oral bacteria that can put a stop to your heart. One study last year found that people with Tannerella forsythensis had a 53 percent increased risk of heart attack, while the presence of Prevotella intermedia led to a 35 percent increase in that risk.

    That same study also found that people with the most bacteria in the mouth--any type of bacteria at all--have the highest risk, so the message is pretty clear: Keep your mouth clean and you'll have a healthier heart.

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