How Your Smile Impacts Cardiovascular Health
Our bodies are intricate in that many different areas of our bodies affect other areas. When there is an issue with one area, it can have negative effects on another area. For example, did you know that dental issues could impact heart health? That’s right. Unfortunately, if you have issues, like gum disease, it could potentially lead to issues with your cardiovascular health. Today, we’re here to explain the connection and what you can do to protect your smile — and your heart!
Importance of Gum Health
When many people think about dental health, they only consider the health of their teeth. However, having healthy teeth starts with having healthy gums. Unhealthy gums typically happen as a result of plaque, which is a sticky film that can buildup on your teeth and is filled with bad bacteria. If you aren’t brushing and flossing daily, the plaque on your teeth isn’t properly being removed. At this point, it can begin to build up and produce acid, which can cause gum irritation, sensitivity, and begin to cause gingivitis, the beginning stages of gum disease.
Health.com explains that gingivitis is usually reversible by taking better care of your teeth, although, if you don’t improve your oral hygiene habits and see your dentist, it can progress to periodontitis, a more serious infection of the gums.
Signs of Unhealthy Gums
Signs and symptoms that your gums could be infected include:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red, swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums, longer looking teeth
Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Health
More and more modern studies are showing that people who have bad dental health are being linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing cardiovascular health issues, like heart attack and stroke.
Cardiovascular Health and Gum Disease: What’s the Connection?
Studies have explored several different theories of what the link could be. Harvard Health lists those theories to be:
- The bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis and eventually periodontitis can also travel to the blood vessels in other parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage. This can result in small blood clots, heart attack, and/or stroke.
- Rather than bacteria being the main source of the issue, another theory is that the issue is from the body’s immune response. The inflammation can set off a cascade of vascular damage across the body, including the heart and brain.
- Instead of there being a direct connection between gum disease and heart health, some researchers believe that the reason they may occur at the same time is due to a third party factor, like smoking, which can increase risk for both issues. Additionally, lack of access to healthcare and lack of exercise can also cause these issues.
Harvard Health, however, further explains that the connection between poor dental health and overall health isn’t only limited to cardiovascular health. Rather, studies have also shown that gum disease has also been linked to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, and more.
Maintaining Cardiovascular Health and Gum Health
It is important to make a conscious effort to care for your oral health to ensure that you are doing all you can to prevent gum disease from affecting other parts of your body, like your heart. A good oral hygiene routine should include:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day – once in the morning and again at night – for at least two minutes each time. When you brush, you need to make sure you are using small, circular motions to thoroughly clean the entire surface of each tooth all the way up to right before the gum line.
- Floss daily. When you floss, you’re cleaning the small areas of your teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. Plaque and food can get stuck between each tooth, and the only way to get rid of it is by using that thin wire of floss.
- Using a mouthwash with fluoride. Fluoride is a great way to protect your teeth and oral health. Look for a mouthwash that has the ADA seal of approval to help maintain your oral health.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Ideally you should be visiting your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning and exam. Doing this can help catch signs of gum issues early, and can give you the tools you need to reverse it before it develops into a more complicated issue.
Make an Appointment with Dr. Ania
If you’re ready to protect your teeth and your heart, make an appointment with Dr. Ania today. We pride ourselves in helping you achieve optimal oral health. Not only will we clean your teeth, but we will also spend time educating you on your gum health and how you can maintain a healthy smile.