You know about the plaque that forms on your teeth. It’s not good for your teeth, and it’s not good for the rest of your body, either. You may have also heard about the plaque that forms in your arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes. The two plaques are not the same, although they both signal trouble. Tooth plaque and arterial plaque are made up of completely different material.
“It’s confusing because it’s the same word,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dental office. “They both have the same root word, which comes from the Dutch and means plate,” Dr. Ford adds. But there also seems to be good evidence that tooth plaque and heart plaque, while made up of different material, may both be bad for your general health. “Poor oral health is often related to heart attacks and strokes,” the Phoenix dentist says.
There is bad news about plaque, too. The sticky film on your teeth can signal bigger problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
“A disease that starts in the mouth has repercussions in other places in your body,” says Dr. Carol Ford. The link is inflammation, or swelling, which is a sign of bacteria living in the area. And inflammation is one response to gum disease.
In the case of diabetes, each disease aggravates the other. Diabetics’ immune system is in delicate balance already. When the inflammation of gum disease is added to the system, it’s even harder for the body to manage the diabetes. And diabetics have a tendency to produce more plaque and have more gum disease.
According to the article, “Oral Health: Insights into Your Overall Health,” published on Web M.D., “. . .people with diabetes who were treated for periodontal disease could more easily control their diabetes.”
Gum disease is also a factor in low birth weight and pre-term labor. Pregnancy hormones increase your risk of gum disease, so if you are pregnant, do your unborn baby a big favor and brush and floss your teeth. “You aren’t just eating for two, “ smiles Dr. Ford, “you are brushing and flossing for two.”
Oral health is important in every part of your life, from birth through pregnancy and old age. The little bit of daily work has a big payoff over a lifetime—a bright smile and a healthy body.