Physicians far and wide agree that heart health begins with not smoking, eating a balanced diet, staying active and managing your weight. But does being heart smart also include taking good care of your teeth?
Some research suggests a connection between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease. The concern is that the bacteria that cause infections of the gums could also lead to a narrowing of the arteries or inflammation in the blood vessels, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
While these studies certainly provide incentives to brush and floss — and to see your dentist regularly — the American Heart Association has not confirmed this research. It maintains that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that preventing gum disease can prevent heart disease or that treating gum disease can lessen the buildup of artery-clogging plaque.
However, experts do agree that gum disease and heart disease share common risk factors — such as smoking, age and diabetes — that contribute to harmful inflammation in the body, and that oral health can be an indication of your overall health. And, some patients should take preventive antibiotics before certain dental procedures because they are susceptible to infective endocarditis, a disease in which bacteria gets into the bloodstream and settles in the heart lining. If you have artificial heart valves, a history of endocarditis, a heart transplant, a congenital heart condition or an orthopedic implant, you should discuss your personal health history with your dentist or doctor.
According to the American Dental Association, you can keep your mouth healthy by:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice daily with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
- Cleaning between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.
- Visiting your dentist regularly for oral exams and professional cleanings.