by: Dr. Tom Swanlund
Does having healthy teeth help you have a healthy heart and vice-versa?
The mouth is filled with bacteria, many of which are harmless. With good oral hygiene habits, like daily brushing, you can prevent the bad bacteria from causing problems.
When you brush your teeth, you probably don't think about its effect on your heart. But several studies suggest that oral health may play a big role in cardiovascular wellness.
We look more into that in this post.
The link between the mouth and heart: what studies say
According to a study, brushing at least twice a day and for more than two minutes each may reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease.
Researchers think this may be because people who are paying more attention to their oral health may also be paying more attention to other aspects of their health.
If a simple everyday activity such as tooth brushing can have such an enormous benefit to your overall health, there's no reason not to practice it.
Experts also see the findings of this research as a reminder that the mouth is an integral part of our general health, and that daily healthy habits are important.
In another study, findings suggest that gum disease may worsen blood pressure and interfere with hypertension medications.
Participants of the said study are treated hypertensive adults above 30 years of age. Results revealed that those with moderate to severe periodontitis tended to be older men who smoke and have other risk factors.
Gum disease and heart disease share risk factors. Harmful bacteria from inflamed gums can make it to the bloodstream and reach the heart.
Having poor oral health may put you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, especially if the dental issue is left undiagnosed or untreated.
In addition, inflammation can be a major concern in both the mouth and heart.
Inflammation is the body’s automatic response to fighting irritants or invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, or foreign objects. Signs of inflammation may include redness and swelling.
Periodontal or gum disease involves inflammation. Bacteria invade and cause the gums to recede and form pockets that host more bacteria to multiply.
Heart inflammation causes chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling of certain body parts, and fatigue.
Experts emphasize the word 'may'
Connections between the heart and oral health don't mean that proper brushing or brushing more often can reduce or treat heart disease. Nor do they mean that having heart conditions equate to having poor oral health.
However, these studies do show there’s more reason to pay attention to your oral hygiene habits and researchers attest to that.
Prevent gum disease, improve heart health
Here are some ways to improve oral and heart health.
● Brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristled brush.
● Floss regularly to prevent plaque buildup between teeth or spaces that the toothbrush can’t reach.
● Remember to see your dentist and dental hygienist at least twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups.
● Maintain a healthy diet as the body needs proper nutrition to perform and recharge.
While experts stress that the link between the mouth and heart isn't entirely clear yet, the fact doesn’t change that your oral health needs your attention.
Consistent, good habits will not only reward you with a beautiful smile but may help boost your overall health.