July 14, 2011
Plaque is a sticky buildup of bacteria on your teeth. It can lead to red and irritated gums and tooth decay. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Research finds that letting plaque build up over time can have a negative effect on your overall health.
When you eat or drink, plaque naturally builds up. Brushing can help get rid of some of the buildup. But if that nasty plaque sticks around, your mouth will pay the price.
If you have food and drinks with sugars or starches in them, the bacteria in your mouth breaks them down with acid. The problem starts when plaque keeps those acids around too long.
The stickiness of the plaque keeps the acids close to your teeth and gums. The acid eats away at the enamel of your teeth. It also causes tenderness, swelling and bleeding in your gums, also called gingivitis. That can lead to gum disease which breaks down the bone supporting your teeth.
Time and time again, scientists and doctors are finding links between health problems and gum health.
In fact, In 2009 the American Academy of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology published a paper discussing the link between heart and gum disease. They recommend heart doctors ask patients if they have a history of gum disease problems. It might sound strange, but many studies link gum and heart health. And that's just the beginning.
Research also shows a link between gum disease and other health problems, such as:
The good news is, taking care of your teeth is simple. Get them cleaned at least twice a year, or ask your dentist if you need your teeth coated or sealed. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily and use an antimicrobial mouthwash to keep the bacteria at bay.
A few simple steps can keep your mouth and your whole body healthy for years to come.