Inflammation: the link between periodontal disease and heart diseaseBacteria found in infected gum tissue around teeth break down the barrier between the gums and the underlying connective tissue, causing inflammation. When we chew or brush normally, these same bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move all throughout the circulatory system. As a consequence, you find bacteria and inflammation in cardiovascular arteries, along with arterial plaque. It’s as if inflammation is infectious—it can be passed from one site to another.
Are you at risk?Given the alarming numbers I’ve cited, it’s not unlikely that you have some form of periodontal disease. The American Academy of Periodontology lists the signs of periodontal disease as the following:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums or other pain in the mouth
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Sores in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way the teeth fit together when one bites down
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
What is C-Reactive Protein (CRP) screening?CRP is a vital part of our immune system. It’s released into the blood from the liver as part of our body’s protective response to injury, inflammation, or infection. Talk about a rapid responder—CRP levels can increase up to 1,000 times within 24 to 48 hours of an infection or trauma. It’s already known that high CRP levels are associated with stroke, CVD, peripheral arterial disease, and type 2 diabetes. We can now add periodontal disease to that list. The good news is that it’s just a simple blood test—no prepping needed, not even fasting. You can even get a screening test to use in your home. If your CRP levels are high, you should work with your doctor to take corrective and preventive action. But, before you go mouthwash shopping…
A mouthful of wrongWhen you see a marketing claim like “kills 99.9 % of the bacteria that cause bad breath,” don’t swallow it. As you know, our health depends on an infinite array of “good” bacteria, without which we’d be perpetually ill or perpetually dead. Most of the time you hear about its residence in the gut…but your mouth is a host to billions of beneficial bacteria as well. When a mouthwash goes on a killing spree, it makes no distinctions. Our vital good bacteria go down with the ship. That’s because the leading mouthwashes are little more than alcohols. These cause a drying effect in the mouth—that burning sensation we mistakenly believe is “healthy.” Please believe instead that it’s “deadly.” And remind yourself that an increased probability of having oral cancer awaits down that road. While alcohol takes top honors as worst threat, it’s not the only ingredient you want to avoid. Here are some of the known or suspected carcinogens used in some mouthwashes, for example:
- FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Blue No. 1
- Poloxamer 407
- Disodium phosphate
Your mouth is a filterYour mouth isn’t just some kind of scaffolding or frame that holds your tongue and teeth. It’s a sensitive organ that guards against ingesting toxins—we usually know instantly when something tastes “off. This is especially important when you first wake up. Toxins have been building up in your mouth while you sleep. That’s why we have expressions like “My mouth feels like a cat slept in it.” And given the link we now know exists between oral health and CVD, that’s why proper cleansing—not mass murder by mouthwash—is essential. That includes, of course, brushing and flossing after every meal, with toothpaste containing no sugar—or better still, a home-made toothpaste using baking soda and water.
Ancient wisdom rules againIndia’s centuries-old Ayurvedic health practices appreciate the role of the mouth. In a process called “oil pulling,” you swish a tablespoon of healthy oil around in your mouth and between your teeth for a minimum 5 minutes first thing in the morning and at bedtime. Almost any plant-based oil will do—avocado, sesame, olive, or the often-preferred coconut. The anti-fungal and anti-viral properties of the oils “pull” toxins out of your mouth and gums. I know, 5 minutes (serious practitioners insist on 20) seems like a really long time, especially compared to the 30 seconds the mouthwash marketers recommend. But you get used to it, and enjoy a uniquely clean mouth feel when you’re done. And your heart will thank you for it. (Be sure you don’t gargle or swallow the oil. That can put those pulled-out toxins back inside you.)
- 200mg Omega-3
- 500mg curcumin
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