Giving your dental hygiene a little extra TLC doesn’t only give you a set of healthy and shiny white pearls; it can also keep your heart healthy.
Although the connection between the two isn’t conclusive, studies have shown that the mouth breeds the warning signs to many systematic diseases—including heart disease. Many of the risk factors for gum disease are the same as those for heart disease and stroke: such as tobacco use, poor nutrition and diabetes. Generally, people who have chronic gum disease are at higher risk for a heart attack, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Gum disease (called gingivitis in its early stages and periodontal disease in the late stages) is caused by plaque buildup along and below the gum line. Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can extricate, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation; which in turn decreases blood flow to the heart, causing blood pressure to rise and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Some of the warning signs of gum disease include:
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Teeth that are loose or separating from each other
- Gums that look like they are pulling away from the teeth
- Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
Although, regular dental cleanings and exams can help remove plaque and tarter build up, bacteria and early detection of gum disease, it’s important you keep up with proper oral hygiene at home by brushing and flossing on a regular basis.
To help lower the risk of gum and heart disease, you can:
- Quit smoking
- Stay active
- Manage your weight
- Control your blood pressure
If you have a history of any cardiovascular (heart & artery) disease, it’s noteworthy to let your dental professional know as it may require them to adjust the type of treatment you are receiving. Be sure to keep them up to date with prescription or over-the-counter medicine you are taking—including any supplements, vitamins or herbal pills as your dentist might ask you to stop taking something before a specific treatment.
Remember to carefully follow your physician’s and dental professional’s instructions about health care, and use any prescription medications, such as antibiotics, as directed.