Ever heard of the horse whisperer? Well, I am the gem polisher. But I polish not just any gems like emeralds or diamonds. I polish the most vital gems we will ever own. I am a dentist, and I polish the gems of the mouth: teeth.

What can happen, however, if we do not polish our own teeth, or go to a dentist or hygienist to have our teeth polished professionally on a regular (hint: at least twice a year) basis? We develop an overwhelmingly large amount of plaque.

Our saliva has not kept up with most of our “modern” diets that center around the middle aisles of a grocery store. As such, there are leftovers in our mouths after every meal comprising mainly of processed foods. Brushing after breakfast and before bedtime, as well as flossing at night, helps to alleviate the buildup of food stuffs; but that is only one part of what oral plaque is made of. Oral plaque (tartar) is also made up of bacteria and bacterial poop.

Besides bad breath, having an excessive amount of oral bacteria is relatively painless. The ways to know if oral bacteria have wreaked havoc in one’s mouth usually start with bleeding gums when one brushes their teeth, followed by loose adult teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss. Bottom line: oral bacteria, if not being brushed/flossed/rinsed appropriately away, become overcrowded in the mouth, forcing them to find other places to live. Studies show the first place they go is into our arteries.

Granted, cholesterol and other ingredients irrelevant to this article also make up arterial plaque, but, suffice to say, oral bacteria can and do make their homes there. Some stay, but some travel even further to the heart, being a big cause of endocarditis, or heart disease.
There was a recent study done that combined both the American Board of Cardiologists and the American Academy of Periodontists in equal funding. They swabbed diseased mouths, clogged arteries and diseased hearts, swabbed Petrie dishes, then placed them under a laboratory hood for three days. They discovered that all three areas contained the same bacteria – oral bacteria. Up until this point the dental community had very little scientific evidence that oral bacteria migrated at all, let alone as far as they did.

Unfortunately, there is a third place where oral bacteria and a type of plaque can be found, and that is the brain. Those with full-blown Alzheimer’s have plaque deposits in the brain. This year it was discovered that there are colonies of P. Gingivalis, the bacteria that causes gingivitis, or gum disease, inside them. Scary to find that oral bacteria can cross the blood-brain barrier and not only survive, but thrive.
We also are aware of people dying from bacteria pneumonia or “aspiration” pneumonia. What are these people aspiring or breathing in? One ingredient is oral bacteria. In fact, 85% of the bacteria found in bacterial pneumonia is the bacteria from one own’s mouth. In June research was defended that one out of ten seniors in assisted care or skilled nursing facilities die from dental neglect. Here is where it starts.
So, we all have to be gem polishers. Our teeth deserve and need to be treated as if they are sapphires or rubies. For the better we treat our mouths, the better we protect our arteries, hearts, brains, and lungs.

Coaggregation: specific adherence among human oral plaque bacteria: https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.7.5.8462782

Oral health status and need for oral care of care-dependent indwelling elderly: from admission to death: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00784-016-2011-0

Interdisciplinary Care Model: Pneumonia and Oral Health: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-98298-4_9

Periodontal disease bacteria may kick-start Alzheimer’s: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181004100009.htm

Poor oral hygiene as a risk factor for infective endocarditis–related bacteremia: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002817714645608

Content provided by Women Belong member Joy Poskozim