It's no surprise that a healthy smile begins with proper dental care, but did you know that your oral health might affect your heart health? The biggest culprit, gum disease, not only poses a threat to the health of our smiles, it may also increase the risk cardiovascular issues. Fortunately, general dentistry treatments, combined with good oral hygiene habits, are highly effective at preventing gum disease and keeping oral health on track. Learn more about the link between dental care and heart health in this overview from Charlotte, NC dentists John M. Pinnix IV and George A. Betancourt.
Gum Disease and Heart Health
Many people are surprised to learn that proper dental care is also vital to maintaining heart health. Studies suggest a strong link between the state of our oral health and certain cardiovascular conditions. Gum disease, a bacterial infection of the gums, is of particular concern when it comes to oral and heart health because patients with severe gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart issues. It is believed this link is a result of oral infections traveling to the heart through the bloodstream, leading to such heart-related conditions as:
- Endocarditis: Bacteria from oral infections, like gum disease, may travel to the heart, resulting in a condition called endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium tissue, the tissue that lines the heart's valves. Endocarditis can cause permanent damage to the valves, impacting the heart's ability to pump blood, resulting in fatigue and heart murmurs.
- Arterial inflammation: Those with severe gum disease may also be at increased risk of arterial inflammation. Arterial inflammation is dangerous to heart health because it can cause damage to the arteries, including plaque buildup as well as arterial hardening, or atherosclerosis.
- Stroke: Higher levels of bacteria in the body, as seen in patients with severe gum disease, have been linked to increased incidence of stroke.
- Coronary artery disease and heart attack: Severe gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease, the buildup of plaque within the arteries that supply the heart with blood. When the coronary arteries become blocked, the heart is unable to receive sufficient oxygen or nutrients, commonly resulting in a heart attack.
Protect Your Heart and Your Smile
With the strong link between gum disease and cardiovascular issues, it's apparent that proper dental care is vital to protecting heart health. Of course regular exercise and a healthy diet are also important to heart health, but by practicing proper dental care, you can further reduce the risk of heart issues. Follow these dental care tips to help protect your heart and your smile.
- Brush for two minutes, twice a day: Brush the teeth twice a day to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth and gums. This will reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Also, be sure to brush for at least two minutes every time you brush to ensure thorough cleaning.
- Floss daily: Flossing daily is one of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease. When flossing, sweep the floss up and down each side of each tooth and along the gum line to remove plaque and food remnants brushing alone can miss.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash: Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash after brushing and flossing can further eliminate bacteria within the mouth, helping to decrease the risk of gum disease.
- See your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings: Regular check-ups and cleanings should be schedule at least once every six months to catch any oral health issues early.
Schedule a Consultation
To find out which treatments are right for you, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pinnix or Dr. Betancourt.