Did you know that the found that nearly half of Americans brush twice a day, floss daily, and rinse with mouthwash? All of these habits are central to proper oral hygiene; however, did you know these practices can also help your heart?
Research has shown that periodontal disease (gum disease) increases the risk of heart disease. Taking care of your mouth is also caring for your heart's health. February being Heart Health Month, we want to emphasize this!
You might think the mouth and heart don’t have much in common, but increasing evidence suggests they may be closely linked. Most efforts to prevent heart disease focus on exercise, monitoring cholesterol levels, hypertension and other equally important behaviors. What most of us don’t know is that you could still be at risk even if you are following all these recommendations when your gums are unhealthy.
The connection between oral health and heart health is bacteria. Bacteria spreads from our mouths to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, causing systemic inflammation. That’s why oral health is connected to our overall health.
Research points to a link between gum disease and inflammation that can precede heart attacks, , and sudden vascular events. The evidence indicates that the bacteria that causes damage to the gums also triggers an inflammatory response that may lead to the development of systemic diseases. At this time, the exact relationship between cause and effect is unclear.
Studies have shown that the bacteria present in gum disease can travel throughout the body, triggering inflammation in the heart’s vessels and infection in heart valves. This could affect a lot of people. A groundbreaking study of people over the age of 65 found that over 70% of the participants were experiencing some stage of gum disease.
The American Association of Periodontology (AAP) states that you may have gum disease (even a mild form of it) if you are experiencing any or several of these symptoms:
- Red, swollen, sore gums
- Gums bleeding when you eat, brush, or floss
- Pus or other signs of infection around the gums/teeth
- Gums that look like they are “pulling away” from the teeth
- Frequent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
Gum disease is the #1 reason for tooth loss and, and as we now know, it is linked to heart health as well. That’s why we offer these suggestions for dealing with gum disease:
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled brush that reaches all tooth surfaces.
- Floss daily, rubbing the floss up against neighboring teeth to disrupt plaque and bacteria.
- Have an annual check up and regular cleanings.
- Talk to your dental provider if you notice symptoms of gum disease.
Take action against heart disease this February by taking care of your gums and oral health. Your teeth and your heart will thank you!
The American Association Of Periodontology
Harvard Health Publishing
American Heart Association
Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute