Complete Health Dentistry

Gum Disease Can Lead to Heart Attack or Stroke

Your Mouth is the Gateway to Your Complete Health

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Click here for the video script.

What is complete health dentistry? Complete health dentistry is the concept that your mouth is the gateway to your total health. A lot of people understand that if certain parts of their mouth aren’t healthy, it can cause problems with your heart and things like that. The science has shown over the last 5 to 10 years, that if your mouth is unhealthy, your whole entire body can be at risk. An unhealthy mouth will put you at risk for things like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, also diabetes, even Alzheimer’s. A group of dentist in the country have come together to accept the challenge, if you will; that we might be able to not just drill and fill a tooth, but be able to make an improvement in your life, as our patient. The more we work toward this, the more we read the scientific papers, the more we understand that helping you get your mouth healthy really has a positive effect on your overall health. We have patients everyday who are on blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, that are all these different drugs that have been thrown at them because they’re a typical American walking down the street with American diseases. The only thing they know to do about it is take another drug and have to experience that drug’s side effects; the negative side effects every day, day-in day-out, of their cocktail of drugs. The next thing you know, they come to see us and we talk to them about how their unhealthy mouth might be affecting the rest of their illness. They walk with us. We lead them down a walk to achieve a healthy mouth. In doing so, they come back to us 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months later and they say, “I went to my doctor. My doctor wants to know what am I doing differently because my blood pressure went down on its own. My cholesterol numbers went down, and my doctor is now willing to start to lower my medication doses.” Our goal in complete health dentistry is that we can partner with the physicians and with the specialists, and share with the understanding that we have, that we can create a healthy mouth for our patients. In doing so, have a difference in their lives by making them healthy, live longer, and live well.

How Gum Disease Can Lead to Heart Attack or Stroke

Find out how Atlanta Dental Spa can assess risk for heart attack or stroke using soft plaque testing. The team at Atlanta Dental Spa looks beyond the gums to overall health.

Click here for the video script.

Hi, I’m Doctor Susan Estep and as you know, at Atlanta Dental Spa, we care a whole lot about your mouth and your body. There is a big oral systemic connection and I just found this really cool picture that helps explain how gum disease can lead to a heart attack or stroke. So here’s this really cool picture that shows a blood vessel. The blood vessel kind of looks like a garden hose and that’s where all the blood runs through right here. Down on this end, this little slice right here is a picture of a very healthy blood vessel.

You can be going along and have super healthy blood vessels, and all you need is a little tiny irritant to trigger things to start going into the bad direction. An irritant is things like smoking, high blood pressure, gum disease for instance. Inflammation, and what inflammation does to the blood vessel, is this very healthy lining on the inside of the blood vessel is very, very, tight. The cell is tight woven together. Nothing can get into the wall of this blood vessel.

When an irritant comes along, it can cause these cells, this little lining, to be less tight, to be leaky if you will. It allows things to start to get into the wall of the vessel. When things like this get into the wall of the vessel, they then start to pull in fatty streaks, or plaque, or cholesterol, into the wall of the vessel. So this right here is the soft plaque that has now formed inside the wall of the blood vessel.

When the plaque is stable, it will start to solidify, or calcify, and it turns into these little white things here. Those are little calcified plaques. Those are actually a better thing to have than this soft plaque, and here’s why. The soft plaque continues to grow, and also is an irritant. As it continues to grow, and all of the irritants are still making the lining leaky, it can grow to the point that it ruptures, and then the plaque will start to spill into the bloodstream.

This right here is just like a boo boo, a cut, an injury. Your body’s response to that, like with any other cut, is that it sends all of the platelets, and all the clotting factors to come in and form a clot to fix this rupture. When that clot forms, it fills up the inside of the garden hose, your blood vessel. It stops the blood flow, and if that happens in your heart, that’s a heart attack, and if that happens in your brain, it’s a stroke.

Now let’s go back for second and talk about this soft plaque versus this hard plaque. Let’s say you were here right before a rupture, and you started to use healthy lifestyle changes, or maybe you were put on some medications that were trying to improve the health of your arteries. This plaque could actually start to solidify so much that a lot of the soft plaque would go away, and then you’d have mostly hard plaque.

Now that’s not an ideal situation, but that’s a much more stable situation than having this soft plaque because the hard plaque isn’t going to cause your blood vessel to rupture. What is this soft plaque? This is calcified plaque, and they measure for calcified plaque by checking your calcium score. If you’ve ever been to the doctor, if you’re a certain age, if you’ve ever been to a cardiologist, you know very well what your calcium score is. They’re testing for how much calcified plaque that you have. They’re not testing for the soft plaque that you have.

Now, they’ll also put you a treadmill and do a cardiac stress test. The cardiac stress test is measuring how the liquid is flowing through the hose. How the blood is flowing through the vessel. Even though in this picture you can see that there is a constriction, your blood is still perfectly able to flow through this whole, through this artery, through this blood vessel as long as you’re not all of the way down here, right before the blood flow stops. As long as you’re on the treadmill while you’re having the heart attack or stroke, you’ll be able to detect if you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

But if you’re on the treadmill and you’re right here, you’re going to have a perfectly fine treadmill or stress test score. The two biggest things that we’re doing today to check to see if you’re going to have a heart attack, are checking for calcified plaque, and putting you on the treadmill to make sure you’re not right here.

As long as you’re here, they’re going to tell you “you’re in the one percentile. you don’t have a good chance of having a heart attack or stroke in ten years. Then people like Tim Russert drop dead a month later and we wonder why. Well let me tell you something, we need to start looking right here. Right here, at this soft plaque, at these inflammatory markers, to really detect whether you’re going to be at risk for the leading cause of death and disability in this country.

It’s totally reversible; we can completely look for all of these things and tell you. If we find this stuff, we can reverse you back to down here. So here at Atlanta Dental Spa, we’re not just looking at your gums, we’re looking beyond your gums, looking at the health of your total body because we’re not just regular dentists, we’re complete health dentists.

In case you have not heard the news regarding the oral-systemic link, the health of your mouth plays a vital role in your overall health. Weigh this against the fact that approximately 80% of adults in the US have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, and you may start to understand why at Atlanta Dental Spa we have intensified our focus on your total health and wellness. If we can help you achieve complete oral health, it will result in your better overall health. And if you desire to improve your overall health, we understand the best tools to get you there. We are dedicated to partnering with our patients to help them live longer healthier lives, which is why Atlanta Dental Spa is now a complete health dentistry practice.

Physicians are just beginning to understand that inflammation in your body is one of the root causes of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, poor pregnancy outcomes, infertility, inflammatory & autoimmune diseases, and perhaps even autism. We now understand that if you can reduce your systemic inflammation, you can reduce your risk for disease. And, if you already suffer from these illnesses, reducing your systemic inflammation can reduce the severity of your disease — and, in some cases, reverse the disease altogether.



Periodontal (gum) disease and poor oral health causes systemic inflammation (and damage to the interior walls of your blood vessels). So, if your mouth is unhealthy, you are at heightened risk for systemic disease. If you already have systemic illness and your mouth is unhealthy, you are at heightened risk of dying from your systemic disease. And while this may sound grave, at Atlanta Dental Spa we are able to bring good news to accompany these health facts. This is important — don’t miss this part– if you have poor oral health, and you get your mouth healthy, your systemic inflammation can be eliminated along with your risk for systemic illness. If you already suffer from systemic disease, and you get your mouth healthy, your symptoms can be reduced — even alleviated altogether. With the proper tools, you can achieve and/or return yourself to optimal health. And who has the proper tools? Atlanta Dental Spa.

Our patients’ success stories range from those who were able to reduce medications, those whose systemic pain was eliminated, and even those who came off their meds entirely. It is these success stories that light our passion to treat our patients as a whole — not just a mouth. The face of dentistry is changing. Dentists are being challenged to help their patients achieve total wellness. At Atlanta Dental Spa, we are up for the challenge.

At Atlanta Dental Spa, hygiene appointments are now oral wellness visits, during which our team considers your overall health in addition to providing you with the same standard of dental care we are known for. We have spent the last several years (ever since this research/information first surfaced) honing our skills and knowledge, so that we have the greatest probability of success when we treat you and your family. This success spans every area of our practice from cosmetic, surgical, general/family dentistry, to wellness practices and every procedure in between.