Tooth decay is an oral disease characterized by damage to the outer layers of the teeth. It occurs as a result of eating foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, not observing proper dental hygiene, and not getting enough fluoride. It can also be caused by diabetes, smoking, and not having enough saliva.
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Tooth decay not only causes unpleasant symptoms such as toothache, sensitivity, and bad breath: It has also been linked to heart disease.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who reported having poor dental hygiene had a 70 percent risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to people who brush their teeth at least twice a day. Some researchers theorize that bacteria from the infected gums can become dislodged and enter the bloodstream. The bacteria can eventually attach to the blood vessels, causing clots to form.
Chronic gum disease often occurs alongside tooth decay and begins when bacteria in plaque build up (gingivitis). If left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, a more advanced, destructive form of gum disease.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), people with oral health diseases are at a higher risk for heart attacks, while the American Academy of Periodontology reports that individuals with periodontal disease (a more advanced and destructive form of gum disease) are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease than those who don't. Several experts in the field of dental health came together to create a consensus report, published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology, which touches upon the link between oral health and heart disease. One of the main takeaways from the report is that chronic gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
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While the jury is still out when it comes to finding a definite link between tooth decay and gum disease, and heart health, individuals who are concerned about their overall health should not neglect to pay attention to their teeth. Brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, flossing, quitting smoking, and paying regular visits to the dentist can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease and their complications.