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One of your most effective tools in fighting gum disease, along with regular trips to the dentist, may be adding yogurt to your diet. Here's why.

Bad breath, cavities, and loose teeth are the all-too-well known consequences of gum disease everyone knows, but did you know that gum disease can also pose a danger to your heart and even cause pneumonia?

The culprit in gum disease is plaque. This is the slimy sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on the teeth. When the inflammation along the gum line is mild, the condition is known as gingivitis. When plaque migrates beneath the gums and causes painful pockets of infection, the condition is known as periodontal disease.

Gingivitis and periodontal are not just a problem for your teeth and gums. They can trigger the body's production of cytokines, inflammatory immune chemicals that the liver converts to C-reactive protein (CRP). Many doctors now believe that CRP is the best indication of risk for heart attack, better than the more commonly measured total cholesterol and LDL.

A healthy CRP level is 0.8 milligrams per liter of blood. Gingivitis and periodontal disease can increase CRP levels to 400 to even 1,000 milligrams per liter in the most advanced cases.

This increase in CRP due to gum disease heralds a 200 to 400 per cent increase in the risk of heart attack and a doubling of the risk of stroke. Gum disease and high CRP are also associated with blood clots in the legs (DVT, or deep vein thrombosis) and in the lung (pulmonary embolism).

What Can You Do to Prevent Serious Consequences Of Gum Disease?

The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to brush after every meal and floss once a day. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash will not eliminate gum disease, but they certainly help.

Secondly, see your dentist at least twice a year for scaling and planing to remove plaque from below the gum line. Preventing plaque buildup goes a long way toward preventing periodontal disease that can affect the health of more than your teeth. However, these are not all.

Yogurt To The Rescue For Gum Disease

From Japan's Kyushu University comes a study published in the Journal of Periodontology that finds that eating yogurt may prevent gum disease.

Dr Yoshihiro Shimazaki and colleagues have been trying to find out for several years whether any personal habits besides brushing and flossing might prevent, or accelerate, the development of gingivitis. In their latest study, the scientists assessed the severity of periodontal disease in over 940 men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 against their consumption of lactic acid foods such as yogurt and buttermilk. They also looked at consumption of whole and skim milk, and cheese.

The scientists learned that eating at least two ounces (56 g) of foods cultured with the friendly bacterium Lactobacillus significantly reduced the risk of severe gingivitis, that is, with pockets more than 2 mm (about 1/10 of an inch) deep in the gums. The benefits of Lactobacillus held even when the researchers accounted for differences in age, gender, frequency of tooth brushing, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

What the scientists did not find was a protective role for consumption of milk and cheese. These foods seem to feed the bacteria that attack the gums. Only yogurt and similar foods were helpful. It's well known that acidity produced by Lactobacilli kills E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella.

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