The Link Between Dental Hygiene & Heart Health
We’re all aware of the importance of brushing and flossing. We’ve heard it from our parents, dentist, and dental hygienist since we were kids. When you’re young, it’s easy to overlook dental hygiene (especially the flossing). You take healthy teeth for granted, except for the occasional cavity; it’s not something you worry about. But what happens to your teeth when you get older? As we age, we’re more susceptible to cavities, shifting teeth, receding gums, and tooth loss. In addition, these changes may increase the risk of severe health problems, including heart disease.
Oral Hygiene & Heart Health
Emerging research has revealed a surprising connection between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease. Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the tissue surrounding your teeth. If left untreated, the bacteria responsible for gum disease can spread to other parts of your body through the bloodstream. When these bacteria reach the heart, this can lead to the development of cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) or endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. People with moderate or advanced gum disease are more at risk for heart disease than someone with healthy gums.
Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease
Recognizing the early symptoms and warning signs of gum disease is the key to successful treatment and the prevention of severe health issues such as heart disease. If you experience any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist:
- Swollen, red, or tender gums
- Gums that bleed when you eat, brush, or floss
- Receding gums
- Frequent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus or other signs of infection around the gums or teeth
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty chewing
Tips for Preventing or Controlling Gum Disease
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent gum disease and protect your heart. Research shows that in addition to poor oral hygiene, stress, heredity, smoking, diabetes, and defective fillings can also increase the risk of gum disease.
Here are some tips to help you maintain good dental hygiene and prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, sooner if the bristles are frayed
- Floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria
- Schedule regular cleanings and dental checkups
- Notify your dentist as soon as you notice dental issues or changes
- Use an American Dental Association (ADA) accepted fluoride toothpaste
- Invest in an electric toothbrush
The link between dental hygiene and heart health is a critical reminder that taking care of your oral health is more than cosmetic. Good dental hygiene practices contribute to overall health and wellness, reducing the risk of gum disease and possible heart disease. Your teeth and your heart will thank you!