When you think of February, chances are you picture roses, chocolates, and, of course, hearts – after all, it is the month of Valentine’s Day. While this time of year might have the holiday that hopeless romantics look forward to the most, it’s also American Heart Month, which was established to raise awareness for heart disease. Recent research has suggested that the health of your gums can actually affect your heart. Read on as a dentist explains this connection and provides tips for keeping your smile healthy.
The Connection Between Your Gums and Your Heart
Teeth tend to get the spotlight when it comes to dental care, but the gums are just as important. They keep your teeth firmly rooted in place. However, a common oral infection called gum disease (which affects an estimated 50% of American adults) inflames the gums. Left untreated, gum disease can cause irreversible tissue damage, deterioration of the jawbone, and even tooth loss.
To make matters worse, gum disease doesn’t just impact your mouth. Multiple studies have suggested a link between gum disease and the heart. Advanced gum disease may put you at a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. This is because the bacteria present in the mouth have an easier time accessing your bloodstream when your gums are inflamed. From there, they can reach your heart and narrow your arteries, making it harder for blood to travel to your heart.
Tips for Preventing Gum Disease
The good news is that gum disease is largely preventable if you take the right precautionary measures. These include:
- Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a fluoridated toothpaste to brush for at least two minutes each time. Angle your brush at 45 degrees against the gums to target lingering bacteria and plaque.
- Floss every evening. Gently move the floss up and down between all of your teeth to remove food particles and germs from your gums and teeth.
- Use mouthwash. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can clean areas of your mouth that your floss and toothbrush cannot reach.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol and tobacco. These products dry out your mouth, making it easier for harmful bacteria to thrive.
- Visit your dentist every six months. At these routine appointments, your dentist can spot early signs of gum disease before permanent damage has been done. Plus, the hygienist can give your teeth a thorough cleaning, removing plaque and tartar that cause gum disease in the first place.
This February, take some time to focus on the well-being of your actual heart instead of just your sweetheart. And keep the tips listed above in mind to have a healthy smile through the rest of American Heart Month and beyond!
About the Author
Dr. Ben Tindal obtained his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Florida. Since then, he has undergone specialized training in prosthodontics (dental prosthetics). He and his team emphasize a preventive approach to oral health problems like gum disease. To find out more about how you can lower your risk of gum disease, visit his website or call his office at 941-225-2520.