At The Heart of The Matter: Why Brushing Your Teeth Could Save Your Heart!

Carolyn Tinglin_Registered Nurse Carolyn Tinglin is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science. Her passion is healthy aging. Throughout her career, she has published numerous articles on health, wellness, aging and recently presented at the International Council on Active Aging conference. Carolyn also works as an assistant professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Brushing your teeth and taking care of your gums is an important step toward preventing plaque build-up in the arteries that serve your heart. According to a 2012 study completed by the American Heart Association (AHA), we harbor millions of bacteria in our mouths and certain types can cause harm to our gums and to our hearts.

Seniors in bathroom brushing teeth

The AHA study took a look at the impact of periodontitis (inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria) on the development of cardiovascular disease. People at higher risk for periodontal disease are those who:

1) Have poor oral hygiene

2) Smoke

3) Have diabetes

4) Have ++ stress and poor coping behaviors

5) Have osteoarthritis and/or rheumatoid arthritis

6) Are obese

7) Have a genetic predisposition for periodontal disease

Many of these risk factors are also risk factors of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up on the inner lining of heart artery walls).

Researchers believe that these risk factors create the ideal environment for periodontal bacteria which originate in the mouth and move into the blood stream and eventually get deposited into plaques. The very same plaques that tend to build up in the inner walls of vessels and cause atherosclerosis (plaques and fats sitting on the inner wall of your arteries).

So what can you do to minimize your risk of heart disease caused by gum bacteria?

There are a few things you can do:

  1. See your dentist or dental hygienist if you’re experiencing signs of gum disease (such as bleeding and inflamed gums when brushing your teeth and/or flossing, noticeably receding gums and “pockets” forming between your gum and teeth).
  2. If you’re a smoker, this might be a good time to think about quitting.
  3. Periodontal therapy is the usual “go to” treatment for periodontitis. Periodontal therapy can be anything from regular brushing and flossing to deep cleaning and scaling (usually done by a dental hygienist or dentist) to surgical interventions.
  4. Antibiotics can also help to reduce periodontal bacteria circulating in the blood and contributing to artery plaques. Ask your dentist or doctor if antibiotic therapy is right for you.

Remember, clean teeth and healthy gums are the key to a beautiful smile and a happy heart too!

 

Sources:

American Heart Association

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/20/2520.long

Dietrich et. al (2013)                        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcpe.12062/full

Stewart et. al (2013)                       http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3578234/

Desvarieux et. al (2013)                                http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/2/6/e000254.full

Rivas-Tumanyan et. al (2013)      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3561508/

 

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