Maintaining good oral hygiene is not just about having a beautiful smile; it’s also about protecting your heart. Studies have found a link between poor oral health and an increased risk of heart disease. While the connection may seem surprising, there is mounting evidence to suggest that taking care of your teeth and gums can benefit your cardiovascular health.
What is heart disease?
Firstly, let’s understand what heart disease is. The term ‘heart disease’ covers a range of conditions affecting the structure and function of the heart. The most common type is coronary heart disease, which occurs when the coronary arteries become narrow or blocked, reducing blood flow to the heart. This can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart attacks. Other forms of heart disease include heart failure, arrhythmias, and congenital heart defects.
Oral Health and Heart Disease: How are they Linked?
Studies have shown that people with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease than those with healthy gums. Gum disease (periodontitis) is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth, caused by bacteria in plaque. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and damage to the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth. However, it’s not just the presence of gum disease that contributes to heart disease; it’s the inflammation it causes throughout the body.
Inflammation is a normal response to infection or injury, but chronic inflammation can be harmful to your health. When bacteria from gum disease enter the bloodstream, they can trigger a systemic inflammatory response, which can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease. These bacteria can also lead to the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries, which can cause blockages and reduce blood flow to the heart.
Other factors that contribute to the link between oral health and heart disease include:
• Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream during routine activities such as brushing, flossing or chewing.
• Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections.
• Poor oral hygiene can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Prevention and Treatment
The good news is that maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent gum disease and reduce the risk of heart disease. Brushing twice a day, flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for check-ups can help keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend deep cleaning treatments to remove bacteria and tartar from below the gumline.
If you’re at high risk of heart disease, it’s important to take steps to protect your cardiovascular health. Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can all help reduce your risk. By taking care of your oral health, you can also help protect your heart.
The link between oral health and heart disease is a clear reminder that taking care of your teeth and gums is essential for overall health and wellbeing. Poor oral hygiene can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, increasing the risk of heart disease. By maintaining good oral hygiene habits, you can reduce the risk of gum disease and protect your cardiovascular health.
Visit Dr. Kapoor and the team at Trafalgar Village Dental in South Oakville to discuss treatments and make informed decisions about your oral health.