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Get your teeth into health

Been to the dentist lately? No? Well, maybe you should do a quick rethink of the importance of dental health.

There’s no better time to do so than now, as September is National Oral Health Month.

Research conducted over several years clearly indicates that the health and cleanliness of your teeth could play a critical role in the health of your whole body.

Some landmark studies have shown a clear connection between poor dental health and heart attacks, strokes and miscarriages in pregnant women.

Some years ago, Prof Mark Herzberg of the Preventive Medicine Unit at the University of Minnesota, showed in a series of experiments,

that certain bacteria present in dental plaque cause blood platelets to clot.

If these bacteria are released into the bloodstream, they could easily trigger a thrombosis, the clotting which creates the perfect conditions for a heart attack or stroke.

The worst offender, according to Prof Herzberg, is the bacterium streptococcus sanguis

that is found in enormous numbers in the mouth; it’s the most common of all the microorganisms found there.

And when people have a lot of plaque on their teeth, the numbers are much bigger.

“We know a lot about the risk factors for arterial sclerosis and heart attacks but nothing about the triggers,” says Prof Herzberg. It seems they may have found one trigger in a place where no one would think to look – in your mouth.

So there is a strong incentive to brush and floss regularly, right there. Does that mean you have to bite the bullet and visit your dentist? Yes, indeed.

These bacteria are released into the bloodstream, where they do damage, through exposed tooth necks or the soft gums that are symptomatic of periodontal disease.

Once they are in the bloodstream, the bacteria can cause havoc in the body.

Not only do they trigger the formation of blood clots, but they can also cause spontaneous miscarriage, it seems.

Pregnant women who neglect their dental care are prone to have more miscarriages and pregnant women have a natural tendency to develop the softening of the gums that opens the gates to the bloodstream for these bacteria.

There are other worrying connections that are being made by scientists. Evidently smokers with dental plaque run a much higher risk of getting lung disease than smokers who have clean,

cared-for teeth and the lung disease is likely to be chronic, or long-lasting.

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