Could Brushing Your Teeth Save Your Life?
Learn about the link between oral health and heart health.
For many years, researchers have known that a link existed between heart attack risk and poor oral health, specifically gum disease. However, for a long time the nature of this link was not understood and could not be said to be causal. Researchers were not sure whether poor oral health was actually causing increased heart attack risks, or whether poor oral health was simply a side effect of the same unhealthy lifestyle and sugary diet that predisposes many people to heart disease.
However, a landmark 2014 study changed this.
We now know that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between heart attack risk and gum disease. Oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through infected gums and eventually make their way to the heart.
In the study, researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine infected mice with 4 specific types of bacteria known to cause gum disease. When these bacteria reached the heart and aorta, the mice displayed an increase in cholesterol and inflammation at those sites. In other words, they developed the two key risk factors in heart disease.
What You Can Do About Gum Disease
Fortunately, gum disease is both treatable and preventable. Here’s what you need to do:
Brush your teeth! The simplest way to keep gum disease at bay—and even help minor infections heal faster—is simply to maintain good oral hygiene. This will help keep populations of oral bacteria down so that they cannot cause gum disease infections or enter the bloodstream.
Floss. Of course, brushing alone is not enough to prevent gum disease. You need to also floss your teeth at least once per day. Flossing presents an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with your gums so you can check for common signs of gum disease, including red, swollen, or tender gums and bleeding.
Visit the dentist. If you do notice the signs of gum disease, you should visit the dentist. And even if you think you are symptom-free, you should still keep up with your annual visits just to be safe. Your dentist can help with the treatment of minor and severe gum disease infections. For minor infections, all that may be needed is a little advice and motivation about oral care at home. For more severe infections, your dentist can provide a special deep cleaning treatment called root scaling & planing to clear out the bacteria and help your gums heal.