We all know that brushing your teeth and flossing regularly keeps your smile sparkly and bright, but did you realize that cleaning your teeth can actually help your heart? Recent research suggests that people with periodontal disease also have a higher cardiovascular risk, which means they are more vulnerable to heart attacks or stroke. It’s probably not time to throw away those running shoes in favor of a new toothbrush, but this is an added incentive to maintain good oral hygiene.
Relationship between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Health
In 2003, researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted analyses which suggested that patients with gum disease were also at elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, people with more severe cases of gum disease have even poorer heart health. Although the exact causes of this relationship remain unknown, scientists continue to explore the impact of oral hygiene on broader health.
One hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to inflammation, which negatively affects the heart. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth, and feed off sugars found in food. These bacteria release compounds that contribute to inflammation and red, swollen gums. The same inflammatory compounds may affect the heart, increasing overall cardiovascular risk.
Protect Your Teeth, Protect Your Heart
Taking a few commonsense measures can go a long way to improving your oral health and your cardiovascular risk. Consider the following:
- Brush twice daily, and floss at least once per day. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day cleans away the harmful bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Similarly, flossing your teeth ensures that dangerous bacteria that build up between each tooth get swept away. These simple steps are the easiest ways to reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
- Eat healthy foods. Those sugary snacks that you love so much don’t help your teeth. Whenever possible, stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. For example, grab an apple or a few celery sticks for a mid-afternoon snack, rather than indulging in that candy bar.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated doesn’t just help your body – it also swishes bad bacteria away from your tooth and gum surface. Drinking plenty of water improves your overall oral health. It’s particularly helpful after eating a sugary or sticky snack, because water can reduce plaque buildup.
- Visit Laurelhurst Family Dentistry. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our staff will monitor your mouth for signs of periodontal disease and can make specific recommendations to keep your mouth – and your heart – safer.