What does dental health have to do with heart health?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, involves the gums, teeth and bone structures of the mouth. Gums may be sore, red, swollen, bleed easily or appear to be pulling away from the teeth. As gum disease progresses, you may experience bad breath, toothache or loose teeth.
Gum disease starts out as gingivitis and can be improved or reversed with good oral hygiene like brushing and flossing. If gingivitis progresses to more severe dental infection, it can lead to pockets of infection underneath the gums where bacteria can more easily access the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body including the heart.
The research isn't in agreement about whether gum disease causes heart disease, but a connection between the two has been found. The theories involve bacterial infection and its role in increasing overall body inflammation. Bacteria from a mouth infection can travel to other parts of the body and end up causing inflammation in the heart and arteries, possibly leading to arterial plaque, heart attack and stroke.
5 Tips for Taking Care of Your Teeth
The good news is that it's pretty easy to take care of your teeth. It just takes a little time and effort each day. Here are 5 ways to maintain great dental health!
Brush twice per day for at least 2 minutes. Bacteria don't just hang out on your gums and teeth so don't forget to also brush your tongue!
Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles from the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach. If you need a refresher on how to properly floss your teeth go to How to Use Dental Floss.
Schedule regular checkups with your dentist twice per year.
Use a toothpaste or chew gum that contains xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has antimicrobial action against Streptococcus mutans, a common oral bacteria that's involved in the formation of cavities. Xylitol has many benefits against this bacteria. It prevents the bacteria from adhering to the teeth in the first place, but even if Streptococcus mutans attaches to the teeth, it's unable to ferment the sugar alcohol and get energy from it. Due to the bacteria's inability to ferment xylitol, the production of lactic acid is also reduced and damage to our tooth enamel is prevented. Xylitol can be a laxative if consumed in high amounts. It's also toxic to dogs so seek immediate veterinary care if they consume it.
Don't smoke or use chewing tobacco. Smoking can weaken your immune system, discolor teeth and puts you at risk of oral cancers. If you do smoke, consider looking into ways to quit. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to also take care of your heart!
Although gum disease hasn't been found to cause heart disease, it may increase overall inflammation especially in the arteries and heart and lead to heart attack and stroke. Taking care of your teeth and gums doesn't take a lot of time or effort. Brushing, flossing, getting regular check ups with your dentist and reducing certain lifestyle habits can go a long way when it comes to good dental health. The next time you're brushing your teeth, feel good in knowing you're taking care of your heart too!
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This website is not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.
Dhadse, Prasad, et al. “The Link between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Disease: How Far We Have Come in Last Two Decades?” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, vol. 14, no. 3, July 2010, p. 148., doi:10.4103/0972-124x.75908.
“Gum Disease and Heart Disease: The Common Thread.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, Mar. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread.
Nayak, Prathibha Anand, et al. “The Effect of Xylitol on Dental Caries and Oral Flora.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry, 2014, p. 89., doi:10.2147/ccide.s55761.