Health care providers across the country are urging patients to take a closer look at their heart health for American Heart Month. While looking to prevent heart disease, many are checking off the boxes with an extra focus on healthy habits like exercising daily, managing stress and eating healthy. But can one of the keys to a healthy heart be found in your gums?
Researchers aren’t so quick to say yes, but the link between oral health and heart health has been explored for decades. In the 1920s, concern about the connection between the two led to many tooth extractions, but no hearts were saved in the process. Decades later in 2012, researchers from the American Heart Association reviewed evidence and determined that poor oral health was not the cause of heart disease. They also concluded that treating gum disease would not cure heart disease.
While the evidence doesn’t establish a clear connection, experts say the notion isn’t completely outlandish. Studies have shown that gum disease is linked to heart disease. The two diseases share some of the same risk factors, including smoking and diabetes.
In people suffering from gum disease, scientists discovered that brushing teeth and chewing releases bacteria into the bloodstream. Some of the bacteria have been found in the plaque that clogs the arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body, which could ultimately lead to a heart attack.
Among other links, scientists are exploring the possibility that inflammation in the mouth increases inflammation in the body, leading to heart attack and stroke. Oral bacteria can release toxins that look like proteins found in the bloodstream. When the immune system responds to the bacteria, it could harm the walls of blood vessels or make it easier for the blood to clot.
Although the link between gum disease and heart disease is still being explored, it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. Here are 5 ways you can keep your gums in excellent shape:
Brush your teeth two-to-three times per day
Brushing shortly after each meal will help keep bacteria build-up to a minimum.
Flossing can help to remove bacteria that can slip into your gums, out of the reach of your toothbrush.
Replace toothbrush every three months
Frayed or bent toothbrush bristles won’t clean as well.
Avoid tobacco use
Smokers tend to have more tartar build-up than non-smokers, which puts them at a greater risk for gum disease.
Schedule regular dental appointments
Experts recommend two dental visits per year.
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