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Preventive Health

Can Flossing Save Your Life?

November 22, 2011

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-coach and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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Are you a regular flosser? Yeah, me neither. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I sit in my dentist’s chair and listen to the hygienist’s heartfelt lecture on flossing…when it comes time to make good on my sworn promises…I dunno. I’m a good brusher–great brusher, in fact–but just so damn lazy when it comes to flossing.

Well, I recently read something that might help give me a kick in the pants, in the flossing department.

Did you know that flossing, and dental/gum hygiene in general, can play a role in preventing heart disease? Surprised?

I know it seems random, but here’s the story.

It turns out there are several studies that show an association between gum disease and heart disease. One theory: inflammation in the gums sets off a biochemical cascade that promotes inflammation throughout the body. And chronic, unchecked inflammation is one of those things we’re starting to recognize as a major factor in heart disease. (Check my little primer on how we can measure your level of inflammation, and heart disease risk).

It’s also hypothesized that bacteria from your mouth (I hate to tell you, but the human mouth is a cesspool of microorganisms–gross but true) may enter your bloodstream and contribute to further inflammation and clogging of the arteries.

Here’s a post from RealAge on the benefits of flossing. And another one from The Independent, in the UK.

Here’s another thought, though. Gum disease and poor dental hygiene may simply be a marker for general health…which means if you’ve got healthy gums you probably take care of yourself in other ways. In other words, this whole flossing thing is not so much something you do to prevent heart disease, per se, it’s just a sign that your heart is already reasonably healthy.

Regardless, I’m going to make flossing a new resolution. Again. Promise.

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