Is there any connection between plaque buildup on teeth and the plaque that builds up in arteries of the body?
Yes, there appears to be a connection, although dental plaque and arterial plaque are two different substances.
Dental plaque is the filmy material that builds up on teeth. Consisting of bacteria and other microorganisms, plaque buildup can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth and bone loss. The plaque in arteries is fatty deposits that can collect on the inside lining of blood vessels. As the plaque builds up in arteries, they become narrower, a condition called atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of coronary artery disease.
What’s the link between the two kinds of plaque? We don’t know exactly, but a growing body of evidence suggests that people with severe gum disease are at greater risk of developing heart disease and of having a deadly heart attack than those with healthy gums.
It will take much more research to sort this all out. For now, the best advice doctors and dentists can give is to take good care of your teeth to prevent plaque buildup and the consequent tooth, gum and bone damage. Brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, and have regular dental checkups and cleanings.
There’s also another kind of link between the teeth and the heart. This has to do with dental work and a heart condition called bacterial endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart valves or lining of the heart caused by a bacterial infection. During dental work, some of the bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream. In people with certain types of heart disease, there’s a risk that the bacteria may settle in the heart and cause bacterial endocarditis.
People at risk include those who have had endocarditis before, those with heart valve disease or have had heart valves replaced, and those with some kinds of heart defects and conditions. Patients in those categories are advised to take antibiotics when having any work done on their teeth that may cause bleeding.