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Why a Healthy Mouth is Good for Your Heart

Why a Healthy Mouth is Good for Your Heart

  • Admin
  • Jan 14, 2020

There are plenty of reasons to take good care of your teeth. You know this because your dentist reminds you, every time you sit back in that chair and open your mouth. It’s a good bet, however, that you’ve never been told about one of the most important reasons to floss and brush faithfully: A growing body of medical research indicates that good oral hygiene is directly linked to better cardiac health. Here’s a look at what scientists are learning about the link between your mouth and your heart:

Set your tooth-brushing timer!

The American Heart Association (AHA) highlights research that links periodontal disease with an increased risk of heart attack. A 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden found that this disease "increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28 percent." Periodontal disease, in case it’s been a while since your dentist lectured you about it, is an inflammation of the gums, tooth tissues, and bones around your teeth. The symptoms can be any of the following:

  • Red, sore, or swollen gums
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Gums pulling away from your teeth

Dr. Anne Bolger, a cardiologist at University of California, San Francisco, explains that gum disease is “a sort of continual state of inflammation, and this seems to be a very powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease.” The good news is that all you have to do in order to avoid this potential risk is to brush your teeth for two minutes at a time, twice a day, with fluoride toothpaste. According to the AHA research, this behavior is associated with a 66 percent reduction in the incidence of stroke or heart attack.

It’s all about bacteria

The Mayo Clinic notes that “Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves.” Other reports from Mayo Clinic explain that poor oral health is linked to endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of your heart) and to overall cardiovascular disease. The researchers explain that “bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.” Still another study, published in the journal Hypertension, found that high blood pressure is linked to inflamed gums. And, to make matters worse, they also report that gum disease interferes with the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication!

Keep your doctor and dentist in the loop

Because of the proven link between oral health and larger medical issues, Cleveland Clinic gives some clear guidelines on how and why your medical and dental care need to be coordinated. This is especially important if you have specific health challenges. For example, if you are at high risk for endocarditis, your doctor may suggest that you take preventive antibiotics before undergoing dental work. Also, you should probably not plan on any dental work beyond routine cleaning within the first six months after experiencing a heart attack. In addition, the clinic notes that some medicines for cardiovascular disease can result in gum overgrowth or excessive gum bleeding, so it’s essential that you let your dentist know about all your medical prescriptions.

We make lots of difficult lifestyle changes in order to maximize our heart health: Getting up off the couch to get on the exercise bike, or saying "No" to a third slice of pizza, or setting aside time for meditation or a walk in the woods. By comparison, four minutes a day of tooth-brushing is a pretty easy fix — and it’ll also make your dental visits easier and cheaper!

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