While the medical community is still learning about the link between oral health and heart health, one thing is clear: taking care of your teeth and gums can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Periodontal or gum disease is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the gums, and may be a warning sign of problems elsewhere in the body. When plaque builds up and clogs the arteries, this is an inflammatory process that can limit the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack of stroke. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection, and should be taken seriously anywhere it occurs.
Most of the bacteria that grows in our mouth is harmless. The body will naturally keep bacteria under control, and taking care of our teeth and gums aids in that process. However, if we don’t practice good oral care, that bacteria can multiply and lead to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria from the mouth can travel into the bloodstream and contribute to the development of heart disease. Whether this is proved true or not, it is important to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from inflammation and infection. And if you already have a heart condition, you should let your dentist or dental specialist know, and give them a list of any medications you take.
Bacteria and inflammation are also linked to other health issues including diabetes, dementia and some cancers. The exact relationship is not clear yet, but we know that link exists.
The best way to ensure optimal oral health and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions is to practice good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss at least once every day
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months — or when the bristles show signs of wear
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings
You should always pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums -- and be aware that what happens in the mouth may be a warning sign for what is happening in the rest of the body.