The name of one disease has probably been uttered more than any other in the past year, COVID-19.
That means some other health conditions may have been swept under the rug while we all waited for a vaccine or an end in sight to the novel coronavirus.
Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, is still the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Did you know your mouth is a window into your cardiovascular health?
Dr. Susan Maples, who operates a total health dental practice in Holt, said oral health goes hand in hand with heart health.
“Everything that happens in the body shows up in the mouth,” Maples said. “The mouth has telltale signs of cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
“The bacterial infection that develops in periodontal disease is so prevalent. It affects about 50% of 30-year-olds and 70% of 70-year-olds. And as dangerous as it is, it is mostly symptom-free,” said Maples.
Maples said the mindset of the condition has changed drastically. It was once only thought to affect the way someone’s teeth were supported.
“Now we know the bacterial challenge that develops deep in those pockets around teeth is significant and threatening,” Maples said. “A dozen or so of the bug strains that live down there, without access to daily cleaning, are quite dangerous. They permeate through the gum tissue, much like a cut in your hand. From there, they curse through the blood stream where they go on to penetrate other organs and multiply.”
With cardiovascular disease, these bugs penetrate the artery walls and grow into a bacterial plaque. When the inflamed pustule grows large enough, it can rupture into the vessel and cause a heart attack or stroke. Aside from that, the overlying inflammatory cascade created by living with gum disease threatens every aspect of a person’s health.
Let’s make 2021 the year we dedicate to our health. While we are thinking about COVID vaccines and the future, we should also be strongly considering our oral health in the present.