As if the chance of losing your teeth wasn't enough, now new studies have linked the presence of gum disease with respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia), heart disease and delivery of preterm babies. The researcher's theories: The bacteria that cause periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to other areas of the body, where they promote disease, or the bacteria that cause infections can stick to excessive tartar and plaque on the teeth.
Although the findings aren't definitive, the evidence is strong enough -- especially with heart disease -- that women should take notice. The swollen, bleeding gums that herald gingivitis, a precursor to periodontal disease, can be worsened by a surge in hormones due to ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy. The increased levels serve as fuel for bacteria, causing them to overgrow, says Steven Offenbacher, Ph.D., director of the Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases at the University of North Carolina.His advice? Be vigilant about practicing good oral hygiene. Don't neglect your annual dental exam and cleanings, brush your teeth -- and your tongue -- at least twice a day, and remember to floss at least once a day.
This article first appeared in Parenting magazine. Parenting magazine
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