February is about to come to a close, bringing “Heart Health Month” to an end. Before we move into the spring season, let’s take a look at what we can learn from this month in regards to education and awareness.
There is a common misconception that living a heart-healthy lifestyle is unrelated to your dental hygiene. In truth, taking care of your teeth and gums play an important role in preventing heart disease. Your body systems are far more connected than you realize, and keeping your mouth healthy helps to keep everything in balance. Make sure you have a knowledgeable and trustworthy team of dental professionals to help you create an action plan.
The Link between a Healthy Mouth and Heart
Let’s clear the air: poor oral hygiene has a direct correlation to cardiovascular disease. The extent of this correlation is still being debated, but nonetheless, the mouth-heart relationship exists. American Health Association (AHA) research from as recently as November 2018 show that daily brushing habits can have a positive or negative effect on the performance of your heart.
It is a powerful statement, and some might question how much truth there is behind it. Can you actually suffer from heart failure or a stroke if you don’t brush your teeth multiple times a day? The answer is this – if you are not practicing good oral hygiene, you’re putting yourself at risk of encountering a serious heart condition down the road, and there is no reason to test your limits.
You might not notice the impact immediately, but overtime your body will take a turn for the worst because your heart is having to work harder on a continual basis. It is comparable to the irregular heart rhythms that a heavy caffeine drinker might experience and choose to ignore in the short term. Our society has a tendency to brush off behavior that does not have an immediate impact on our day-to-day life without thinking about the long-term consequences of this behavior.
Keeping Your Heart Happy and Healthy
So what is it about good oral hygiene that keeps our heart happy and healthy? When you get an infection in your mouth, like gum disease, it is not confined to a single area, even if it looks that way. Over time, it will start to negatively impact other areas in your body – including your cardiovascular system.
With regular dental checkups and professional treatment, you can usually stop the problem in its tracks and prevent further damage to your healthy. However, many people let conditions like gum disease go untreated because of limited access to health care, financial restrictions, or personal conflicts.
The plaque that builds up in your mouth is a mixture of many things, but a key ingredient is calcium. This bacteria doesn’t just “cling” to your teeth and leave the rest of your body alone, it becomes an invader. It is your responsibility to continually protect your body from this bacteria and practice preventative care so it does as little damage as possible.
Without daily preventative care, the plaque can move into your arteries, and your heart can only deal with so much calcium. If it continues to build up without some type of intervention, it can limit or completely block off the blood flow to your heart. Yes – we all need enough calcium to support our basic bodily functions – but in excess it can be dangerous. While the calcium in in your body acts as a “regulator” for your heart, it also needs to be regulated to avoid harmful side effects.
Focus on the Future of Your Health
The best way to start nurturing the mouth-heart relationship is by getting in the routine of practicing good oral hygiene on a daily basis. If you notice any signs or symptoms that cause concern, like swollen or red gums, you should pay your dentist a visit immediately. Your heart may be in perfect health today, but changes in your lifestyle or irregular cleanings could cause an imbalance in your body. While you might not be at risk of a serious heart condition now, it is never too early to have a preventative care plan in place.