More and more, the research says yes. Doctors have been talking about the potential link for nearly two decades and with good reason. Heart disease is a serious problem around the world. So is poor oral health. Could better brushing and flossing give you a healthier heart? And could dentists take a peek inside your mouth and see if you're at risk for heart disease? Doctors say maybe.
So, What's the Link?
Inflammation or swelling of the gums can lead to mouth bacteria entering your bloodstream. When this happens there is an increased risk of the bacteria forming a hardening around the heart arteries, resulting in heart disease.
There are two main types of gum disease; gingivitis, which causes red, painful, tender gums, and periodontitis, which leads to infected pockets of germy pus. That's the type that raises the worry for heart problems as it allows bacteria and other toxins to spread below the gum line.
Scientists have shown that the bacteria found in periodontal disease, including Streptococcus sanguis, plays a role in cardiac strokes. In 2010, one of the biggest independent studies was done in Scotland, where they found that there was up to a 70% increase risk of heart disease in people who brushed less than once a day.
Prevention is the best medicine
Regular healthy habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And if you already have one or both of these conditions, these strategies can help reduce their impact:
- Brush and floss regularly. To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
- Choose a healthy diet, rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce sugar in your diet.
- Avoid cigarettes
- Visit the dentist and hygienist for regular cleans and check-ups. Your dentist can identify signs of systemic illness and catch gum disease early on. Always tell your dentist your medical history, current conditions and any medications you’re taking.
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