Is There a Link between Flossing and Heart Health?

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shutterstock_63841345It’s common knowledge that flossing is good for us because it helps to prevent gum disease and improves our oral hygiene. Gum disease, a bacterial infection that results from improper dental hygiene, was until recently thought to be limited to the mouth. But a few smaller studies have suggested a relationship between chronic gum disease and poor heart health. Could flossing actually be good for your oral hygiene as well as a powerful tool in the fight against heart disease?

Theories that Connect Oral Hygiene with Heart Health

Let’s look at the three theories that connect gum disease and heart health:

  • The bacteria that cause gum disease may travel from the mouth to the heart and cause an infection.
  • Bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and cause fatty deposits to build up in the heart, which can result in blood clots or heart attacks.
  • Chronic gum disease may make the immune system go into overdrive, which causes widespread inflammation. This constant inflammation can cause heart failure.

Although several studies have associated gum disease with a higher risk for heart disease, larger studies have failed to support this finding. Dr. Phillippe Hujoel examined data that followed over 8,000 people for about 20 years and concluded there was no definitive link between gum disease and heart disease. The results of his study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A Gum Disease and Heart Disease Connection?

As they say, correlation does not equal causation. Despite the small studies that noted a link, a number of larger studies did not reveal evidence suggesting that gum disease could lead to heart disease. More research is needed to determine if there really is a connection between these two diseases, but in the meantime, it never hurts to make a regular habit out of flossing.