Most people are aware that poor oral hygiene can cause gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss if not corrected. Many people do not realize, however, that poor brushing and flossing habits can have other negative consequences, including an increased risk for heart disease.
The mouth is a haven for up to 700 types of bacteria. One theory suggests that bleeding gums leave open blood vessels that allow the bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The bacteria will then stick to platelets in the bloodstream, which causes the blood to form clots. If the blood cannot flow properly, it will flow back to the heart causing a heart attack.
Aggressive antibiotic therapy is the only feasible treatment for this disease, but some factors increase the chance that antibiotic treatment will not be successful. One concern is that there are an increasing number of bacteria that are resistant to even the most aggressive drugs.
There is also research suggesting that antibiotics are not always effective because the immune system cannot detect the bacteria. The blood clots are the result of bacteria sticking to platelets, which clump together and encase the bacteria. This allows the bacteria to travel undetected.
It is best to brush after every meal, but brush at least twice a day. Using an electric toothbrush is the most effective strategy for discouraging plaque from building up on teeth.
Floss every day. Ask the hygienist for tips on effective flossing techniques. Use a small dental brush to remove debris from between the teeth that flossing and brushing leave behind.
Replace the toothbrush every three months. If using an electric toothbrush, it is important to replace the head every two to three months.
Visit your dentist regularly for cleaning and exams. We recommend a cleaning every six months and a thorough exam with x-rays once a year.
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