Did you know that the state of your oral health could actually impact your heart health? People who suffer from severe gum disease are actually more likely to have heart health issues. Restorative dentistry treatments can help restore oral health and reduce the risk of heart-related health issues. Learn more about the link between dental care and heart health in this overview from Albuquerque dentist Philip M. Gallegos, DDS.
How Dental Care Can Affect Heart Health
A healthy heart requires regular exercise and a healthy diet, but it can also be affected by the state of your oral health. Poor oral health, specifically gum disease, has been linked to an increased risk of heart issues. This is likely due to infections from the mouth traveling to the heart via the bloodstream. Though dental care alone is not enough to protect heart health, it can help reduce the risk of heart-related health issues such as:
Endocarditis: Gum disease infections can travel through the blood and spread to the valves of the heart, resulting in a condition called endocarditis. Endocarditis is a bacterial infection that can infect all of the endocardium tissue of the heart, specifically the valves of the heart. Endocarditis can cause permanent damage to the valves, impairing the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
Cardiovascular disease: Oral infections can also spread to the arterial walls, leading to cardiovascular disease. Oral infections can cause the arterial walls to become inflamed, narrowing the arteries and reducing blood flow. This is particularly dangerous to the coronary arteries, the arteries that supply blood to the heart itself; this can increase the risk of a heart attack.
Heart attack: Those with severe gum disease are more likely to suffer from a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when the coronary arteries are too narrowed or completely blocked, preventing sufficient blood flow to the heart muscle. Oral infections can lead to arterial inflammation, which can result in narrowed coronary arteries and in severe cases, a heart attack.
Protect Oral and Heart Health with Proper Dental Care
If you're already eating healthy and exercising daily, you can further help protect your heart by taking care of your smile. Practicing proper dental care is vital to preventing oral health issues and heart problems. Practice these dental care tips to keep your health on track.
Don't rush brushing: Proper tooth brushing can't be rushed. Be sure to brush your teeth for a full two minutes each time you brush.
Brush at least twice a day: Brush a minimum of twice a day to remove plaque and bacteria. Be sure to pay special attention to the gum line and back teeth, and clean all surfaces of each tooth.
Floss at least once a day: Many people skip flossing but it is one of the most important and effective dental care practices we can do at home. Flossing greatly reduces the risk of gum disease and prevents tooth decay between the teeth. When flossing, be sure to sweep the floss along each side of each tooth, and bring the floss as far along the gum line as possible.
Use an antiseptic mouthwash: Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash after brushing and flossing, in the morning and evening, to help reduce oral bacteria and the risk of infection.
See your dentist for regular exams and cleanings: Be sure to see your dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings to catch any signs of oral health issues early.