Does Plaque From Your Teeth Clog Your Arteries?

The myth: Plaque from your teeth clogs arteries. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Terrified patient getting treatment from a dentist --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

Although dental hygiene is good for your overall health (sexual health included), the notion that plaque from your mouth can clog your arteries is way overblown.

First, understand that the mouth holds about 20,000 different strains of bacteria. It sounds gross, but most are helpful. Plaque, then, is basically a grouping of different, naturally occurring bacteria that glom onto your teeth, forming a film (ultimately meant to protect your choppers) that you brush and floss away every day.

Surprisingly, there is no link between dental plaque and the plaque build-up that attaches to your arteries. If there was, then each swallow and sip would be killing you slowly.

Instead, what researchers have found is that if you develop periodontal disease, a.k.a. gum disease, which is a bacterial infection, you may be putting your life at risk. That's because the harmful bacteria strains conspiring against your chicklets will enter straight into your bloodstream. Why is that bad? Well, your body will naturally try to defend itself and in turn cause inflammation, which then narrows all your arteries—including those in the brain and the heart.

While brushing and flossing can help prevent it, the leading causes of gum disease are smoking and sugar. Yet another reason to quit the former and ease off the latter.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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