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Atherosclerosis is a condition that describes the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances (called plaque) in the walls of arteries. Over time, this causes the arteries to harden and narrow, which blocks or restricts blood flow. This buildup may lead to heart attacks or strokes. Evidence suggests that there’s a link between poor oral health and atherosclerosis. If you have this condition, preventive dental care should be a priority.

Your mouth has millions of bacteria. When bacteria from the mouth enter the blood vessels, they attach to fatty plaques in the heart’s blood vessels (coronary arteries). Oral bacteria have been found in the walls of arteries far from the mouth. Recent studies found that people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events.

Valuable allies in oral and overall health

Brushing after every meal and before going to bed and flossing at least once a day is important, but so is getting professional dental cleanings regularly. If dental plaque, the sticky film that forms on your teeth, is allowed to accumulate, it can harden and turn into tartar (also called calculus). Only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar. Doing so also removes the harmful bacteria that can enter your bloodstream.

If you notice any symptoms of gum disease (e.g., redness, swelling, or bleeding gums), make an appointment with your dentist. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing any damage and protecting your overall health.

If you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, we'll provide you with two extra cleanings each year in addition to the two included in your plan. All you need to do is make an appointment with a participating dentist. To find a provider in your network, sign in to or the Asuris app and select Find Care.