Of course we all know that flossing helps with oral health in a variety of ways…. removing plaque, disrupting bacteria that cause bad breath and decay, massaging the gums, and getting the teeth cleaner. But this article by Will Revak of Orawellness highlights another very important reason to floss….heart and overall body health!
It’s easy to grasp the importance of regular oral hygiene to avoid mouth based issues like tooth decay and bleeding gums.
But when we stretch the discussion to whether regular flossing can lower our risk of a heart attack, understanding the link can get a bit fuzzy.
After all, where’s the connection between our mouths and our hearts anyway?
As you’ll see by the end of our discussion, having a healthy mouth is a great start toward having a healthy body.
Understanding the mouth/body connection…
In 2006, a team of researchers lead by Steven R. Gundry, M.D., of the International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California did a study on 300 people who had moderate risk of heart disease.
The way the researchers determined if the people were at risk of heart disease was by measuring a common biomarker called C reactive protein (CRP).
CRP is a component of our blood that responds to the level of inflammation in the body. Doctors and researchers have found that CRP provides a better gauge of risk of heart disease than other common markers like blood cholesterol.
In the study, the researchers decided to only test what they called ‘lifestyle modification’.
The participants were simply asked to floss their teeth at least every other day.
In other words, researchers didn’t have the participants change the foods they ate or the amount of exercise they did.
Just floss at least every other day.
After 6 months, all 300 people had their C reactive protein levels tested again.
The CRP levels for all 300 participants had dropped under the threshold that made them ‘at risk’ of heart disease!
While that fact alone is awesome, the researchers then gave the world an important piece of information. Researchers instructed the participants to stop flossing.
And when their CRP levels were tested again, guess what?
Everyone’s CRP levels had gone back up into the ‘at risk’ levels.
It’s all about inflammation…
So, what does this tell us about the role of the mouth in the creation or destruction of the health of the whole body?
We all know that gum disease is a global silent epidemic and is the #1 cause of tooth loss in adults.
When the bad bugs implicated with gum disease get established along and under the gum line, the body reacts to this bacterial infection the same way the body responds to any infection, increase inflammation to promote a healing response.
But the problem doesn’t stay in the mouth. After as little as 9 days of exposure, the bad bugs can begin to travel throughout the body via the tiny capillaries in the gum tissue.
This is why we talk so much about whether your gums bleed when flossed.
If you have any ‘bleed points’ (aka gums bleed when flossed), that means that any bad bugs in that pocket have access to the bloodstream. They can and do swim upstream.
The unique area of the gum line…
When our bodies have an infection, fire bells go off and the immune system causes an inflammatory cascade in the area to isolate the infection and to increase the immune system’s ability to provide back up with white blood cells and other immune system defenders.
But in the case of bad bugs and gum disease, their basecamp is effectively ‘outside’ the reach of the immune system. Bad bugs colonize the gum pockets, which is that little pocket between the roots of our teeth and the gum tissue that surrounds each tooth.
In microbiology, the gum pocket is a border land between two worlds.
So bad bugs have access to the whole body via the bloodstream which causes the body to react to the widespread infection causing systemic inflammation, but the inflammatory immune response can’t get to the source of the infection.
This becomes a chronic inflammatory condition.
This chronic systemic inflammatory condition is the stuff that makes a great platform for heart attacks, strokes and so many other breakdowns in health.
Why flossing helps so much…
When bad bugs take up residence in the gum line, they look to build a strong basecamp there in order to build up their numbers to colonize more of the mouth.
Flossing does a great job in disrupting and disorganizing the bad bugs as they try to organize and colonize the gum line.
But remember, regular flossing is crucial to make a difference. If you only floss occasionally, you’ll only be temporarily disrupting the bad bugs attack on the body.
Regular flossing makes it very difficult for bad bugs to colonize the gum line.
Source: Does Flossing really lower my risK of a heart attack?
So there’s no question that flossing is good for you for a variety of reasons, and if this post has spurred you to be more determined in doing it regularly, then that’s great. Just know that using plastic flosser picks is not your best choice for the job. They are certainly convenient and obviously better than not flossing at all, but they can be hard on gum tissue if they snap through tight areas between teeth too forcibly. And they don’t do as good or thorough a job as regular flossing. They also don’t allow you a fresh area of floss after each tooth, so you could be spreading germs or infection from one area of your mouth to another.
And single-use plastic picks have a much bigger impact on the environment than strands of regular floss. They may be small, but every little bit adds to our ever-growing stockpile of garbage. I have generated my own waste pile by using them for quick flossing during the day to tide me over until my “full blown” floss routine at night. But I will start being more conscious about their drawbacks and environmental impact and try to use them only when absolutely necessary.
And if you want to super charge your ability to disrupt and disorganize bad bugs with flossing, check out this video that demonstrates a powerful way to reduce the bad bugs in gum pockets:
FYI, I use the Brushing Blend myself and have gotten to where I buy the 3-pack because it’s such a good deal (when you click on the ‘Add to Cart’ button you will see that option) and the small bottles last forever and are so convenient to take everywhere. I keep one in the bathroom, one in my purse, and one in my travel bag. It’s also nice to have around because a drop or two of the concentrated blend in water gives you a quick, all-natural, organic mouthwash to use wherever you are.
Related Self-help Health posts on dental care:
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine
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