New Study Reveals How Brushing Your Teeth Keeps Your Heart Healthy


Numerous studies have suggested a link between gum disease and heart disease. Now, new research clarifies how bacteria in our mouths can lead to cardiovascular health problems. (You might want to go brush and floss before you continue reading.)

Porphyromonas gingivalis is an oral bacteria that causes periodontitis, a more advanced stage of the common gum disease gingivitis. Oral bacteria can break free during chewing or toothbrushing and enter the bloodstream, binding to blood cells and making their way to blood vessels. This is particularly likely to occur in people with serious gum infections.

Scientists have previously identified P. gingivalis in the arterial plaque of heart attack patients, and animal studies show that P. gingivalis can both cause and accelerate the buildup of plaque inside the coronary and aortic arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The accumulation of plaque provokes inflammation, which is thought to be a crucial component of atherosclerosis.

But exactly how P. gingivalis participates in that process has remained mysterious—until now. A team of researchers led by Torbjörn Bengtsson of Örebro University in Sweden infected aortic smooth muscle cells with P. gingivalis. They observed that the bacteria altered gene expression in a way that dramatically increased inflammationThis is the first time the chemical process has been observed at a molecular level. Their findings were recently published in the journal Infection and Immunity.

In addition to identifying the mechanism by which P. gingivalis provoked inflammation, the researchers discovered that the combination of the bacteria and stress may amplify the risk of a heart attack. “P. gingivalis markedly increases the sensitivity of platelets … to adrenaline, which means that a combination of periodontitis and stress increases the risk for [blood clot and heart attack],” said Bengtsson.

Now that they better understand the mechanism linking periodontitis to heart disease, the researchers will continue searching for biomarkers that could help diagnose and treat the disease more quickly. Nearly half of adults over age 30 in the United States suffer from periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After controlling for factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking, the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in patients with periodontitis is still 25–50 percent higher than in people who don’t have the gum disease, said Bengtsson, who also emphasized the importance of good oral hygiene.

“Taking care of your teeth by careful brushing and flossing and going to the dentist regularly is of course basic and very important,” he said, adding that removal of plaque through regular dental cleanings to prevent periodontitis is still the general treatment.

However, his team is also testing new methods of controlling oral bacteria before they cause serious gum disease. It turns out that a protein in some lactobacillus—the so-called “good” bacteria that help the body fight a multitude of ailments from diarrhea to yeast infections—may also hold promise for preventing and treating periodontitis.

Sorry, Kids: Soda is Now Banned From Children's Menus in Baltimore

The war on sugary drinks continues. Following several cities that have passed laws allowing them to collect substantial sales tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages, Baltimore is taking things a step further. A new ordinance that went into effect Wednesday will prohibit restaurants from offering soda on their kids’ menus.

Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner, told the Associated Press that the ordinance was enacted to “help families make the healthy choice the easy choice.” Instead of soda, eateries will be expected to offer milk, water, and 100 percent fruit juices.

If you’re wondering what will stop children from sipping soda ordered by an adult escort, the answer is—nothing. Business owners will not be expected to swat Pepsi out of a child’s hand. The effort is intended to get both parents and children thinking about healthier alternatives to sodas, which children consume with regularity. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 30 percent of kids aged 2 to 19 consumed two or more servings a day, which can contribute to type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities, and other adverse effects.

Businesses in violation of this kid-targeted soda prohibition will be fined $100. Baltimore joins seven cities in California and Lafayette, Colorado, which have similar laws on the books.

[h/t The Baltimore Sun]

7 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Kid Get Bored This Summer

No matter how excited kids are for summer break, after a few weeks without school, they can start to feel a little bored. But as a parent, you shouldn't drive yourself crazy scheduling playdates, lessons, and other organized activities for your restless progeny. Instead, turn off the iPad, put down the camp brochure, and let them sit around the house moaning “I'm bored”—it can be good for them.


Research suggests the experience of boredom can lead to greater creativity because it allows minds to wander. In one 2014 study, researchers asked a group of participants to undertake boring activities like copying down telephone numbers from a directory. Then, they were tested for creativity—they had to come up with as many uses for a pair of foam cups as they could think of. The participants who had endured the boring tasks ended up thinking up more uses for the cups than those who hadn't. Boredom, the researchers wrote, "can sometimes be a force for good."

This isn't an entirely new idea. Another study conducted in Canada in the 1980s provides further evidence that boredom isn't always a bad thing: It found that kids who lived in towns with no televisions scored higher on imagination-related tests than kids who had TVs. Imagine what disconnecting from all of the screens available now could do for a kid's creativity.


Boredom can force kids to generate their own ideas about what they'd like to do—and what's feasible—then direct their own activities independently. "If parents spend all their time filling up their child's spare time, then the child's never going to learn to do this for themselves," Lyn Fry, a child psychologist, told Quartz in 2016. "Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant."


In The Boredom Solution: Understanding and Dealing with Boredom, teacher and author Linda Deal advises that it's important to let kids learn to deal with their boredom themselves because it helps them learn to make decisions about how to use their free time. They need to learn to "see the problem of boredom as one within their control," she writes, which can help them come up with constructive ways to solve it rather than simply getting hopeless or angry about it, as kids sometimes do in situations they don't have control over. Kids learn that boredom isn't an insurmountable obstacle.


In a 2012 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, researchers sought to define what, exactly, boredom is. "At the heart of it is our desire to engage with the world or some other mental activity, and that takes attention," co-author Mark Fenske, an associate professor at the University of Guelph, explained at the time. "When we cannot do this—that seems to be what leads to frustration and the aversive state we call 'boredom.'" When kids (and adults) are bored, especially with activities that were once engaging, they're motivated to try new things.


According to a pair of psychologists from Texas A&M University, boredom might have a social role. They argue that it "expresses to others that a person is seeking change and stimulation, potentially prompting others to respond by assisting in this pursuit." Being bored can push kids to go out and be more social, and have fun through activities. When there's not much to do, hanging out with the new kid down the block (or even your little brother) suddenly seems a lot more appealing.


Both at school and at home, kids are often required to participate in a range of activities. Having the time and space to do nothing can help kids figure out what they actually like to do. "Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves," psychologist Vanessa Lapointe writes at the Huffington Post. This downtime allows kids to direct their own activities without adult input. Pressed to come up with their own entertainment, they might discover a love of writing plays, baking cookies, biking, crafting, or perfecting their jump shot.


According to one 2011 study, boredom forced people to reflect on meaning in their lives, prompting them to seek out meaningful activities like donating blood. While the study only examined adults, who may be more inclined to search for purpose, boredom can nonetheless push kids to undertake activities they might otherwise find unappealing—whether that means helping out with the dishes or agreeing to go volunteer for the day—or could even inspire them to make the world a better place.


More from mental floss studios