Make Your Toothbrush a Weapon Against Heart Disease!

Make Your Toothbrush a Weapon Against Heart Disease!

We go for a walk. We eat more veggies and less red meat. We get checkups from our physicians and watch our sodium intake. We take the necessary medications. We do almost everything we can to try to stop ourselves from falling prey to America’s number-one killer of adults, heart disease.

To decrease our risk, we do the obvious. We eat healthy, exercise, lose weight, control diabetes, lower cholesterol, control high blood pressure and decrease stress, but there is one that might not be so obvious. It is cheap, easy and you probably already do it. It is brushing and flossing your teeth!

Brushing and flossing is so simple, yet so many people do not realize the importance that healthy teeth have on a healthy heart. Along with an active lifestyle, brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing daily could help you avoid heart disease. Who would have thought that such a simple task we do everyday could decrease the risk of dying of heart disease!

What do my teeth have to do with my heart?

Many studies have linked gum disease with several serious conditions, such as heart disease. Research is now showing that certain bacteria in your mouth that cause gingivitis and other gum diseases may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, where the gums become swollen, shiny and bleed. Gingivitis is often due to poor oral hygiene, which leads to plaque buildup. The plaque on your teeth then attracts bacteria.

One theory is that the bacteria found in gum disease can enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation. This inflammation has been linked to the formation of blood clots and the thickening of your arteries. As a result, this can lead to both strokes and heart attacks. Your mouth has many bacteria in it, but not all the bugs can affect your heart. Researchers found that only certain bacteria in your mouth are actually linked to heart disease.

Other research also suggests that tooth loss due to gum disease might be a sign that your arteries are thickening. In one study, the patients with missing teeth showed thicker walls in their arteries. This was especially true among men with gum disease.

What if I already have a heart disease?

If you already have a heart disease or have recently had heart surgery, you should make sure your dentist knows. If there is any bleeding in your mouth, bacteria from your gums can get into your bloodstream more easily. The bacteria can then stop on abnormal heart valves or other tissue in your heart. This can cause a heart condition called bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s lining or valves. This can cause damage to your heart and valves. Bacterial endocarditis is very serious and could be fatal.

It is important that your dentist knows about your heart disease, so he or she can properly treat you before any dental work is done. Your dentist may even want to give you an antibiotic to prevent an infection in your mouth. This may be necessary before any professional tooth cleaning, extractions, incision and drainage of infected tissue in your mouth, some types of injections, and some dental surgeries.

How do I decrease my risk of heart disease?

Heart disease is very serious and it can affect anyone. You should take the correct steps to decrease your risk.

  • Take your medicine correctly
  • Engage in and continue a healthy lifestyle
    • Eat healthy
    • Exercise
    • Quit smoking
    • Control your diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral exams
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss every day
  • Make sure your dentist knows if you have a heart problem

While it is important to visit your dentist twice a year to remove plaque and tartar, it is the daily brushing and flossing that is key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Most Americans do not realize how important flossing is. Many find themselves skipping this simple task. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing once a day will not just help to control plaque buildup; it can also benefit your health in many other ways.

Practicing proper hygiene can prevent plaque and bacteria buildup, which can decrease your chances of your arteries thickening and causing a heart attack or stroke. Creating good habits in your own personal life and in that of your children can make an impact on both the health of your heart and your teeth.

Do these simple things and you could make your toothbrush a weapon against heart disease!

Erica Long

© 2006 Consumer Health Information Corporation. All rights reserved.

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