February is American Heart Month, and February 3rd is National Wear Red Day, so there’s no better time to learn more about how to keep your ticker strong. But did you know that, beyond diet and lifestyle, a clean mouth might also help you maintain a healthy heart?
The Keyword: Inflammation
Inflammation is a common factor in diseases of the heart and mouth. For example, when it comes to heart problems like atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries, inflammation is involved. And in terms of gum disease, including gingivitis, inflammation also plays a role. Plus, individuals who have moderate to severe gum disease often show higher levels of C-reactive protein, indicating inflammation throughout the whole body, and that inflammation may boost the risk of having a heart attack.
For these reasons, experts warn that, if there’s inflammation in your mouth, there might be inflammation in your cardiovascular system as well. Researchers also believe that the bacteria within your mouth could end up spreading throughout your body, causing inflammatory problems elsewhere. For example, bacteria in your mouth could move to your heart via your bloodstream and then attach to damaged areas, resulting in inflammation that could eventually lead to conditions like endocarditis, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Your Gums and Your Heart: More Related Than You Might Think
There is still some debate regarding the connection between oral health and heart health, but many experts agree that there is enough evidence to prove that taking care of your mouth might be a solid step towards taking care of your heart.
A consensus report published in the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Periodontology stated that gum disease could play a role as a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Some evidence has shown that gum disease might also be a risk factor for ailments of the arteries and vessels that bring oxygen and blood to the brain. Individuals who have gum disease and have fewer teeth may even be at an increased risk of having a stroke. Yikes!
Researchers have found that the bacteria prevalent within atherosclerosis and gum disease are similar.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014 stated that patients who already have coronary artery disease might reduce the impact of their condition by having their gum disease treated.
Heart Health: Yet Another Great Reason to See Your Dentist
Seeing your dentist on a regular basis, in addition to brushing and flossing daily at home, will help you catch the earliest signs of gum disease. And while your dentist is examining your mouth, he or she may even be able to notice other symptoms that could indicate illness in various parts of the body.
You may not notice the subtle signs of inflammation within your gums, but your dentist knows what to look for. If you do notice symptoms, such as sore, swollen, and red gums, bleeding gums, signs of infection within the mouth, or your gums pulling away from your teeth, be sure to see your dentist ASAP. Other signs that you might have gum disease include bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, as well as loose or shifting teeth—all indications that you should book your appointment right away.
Also, if you suffer with chronic gum problems like advanced periodontal disease or gingivitis, you might be at a greater risk of developing heart disease, so having these conditions treated and managed will help you regain control. And oral hygiene can even reduce plaque that may lead to inflammation and heart troubles.
Your Dentist, Your Hero
Heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths annually, and it is the leading cause of death in the US. On top of that, almost 1 in 2 Americans over 30 develops periodontitis. Thankfully, there’s no reason to stop smiling, as both of these conditions may be prevented by making the right lifestyle choices and following a healthy diet, as well as by seeing your doctor and your dentist for regular checkups.
With the right dental insurance plan, you can gain access to affordable care, including three cleanings annually. That means you can rest assured that your dentist will notice problems in their earliest stages and treat them before they can do any harm to other organs. So in addition to being able to show off a gorgeous smile, your trip to the dentist could be more valuable than you thought: it might even help you maintain the health of your heart.