At this time of year, lots of people are thinking about how best to spoil their honey. While Valentine’s Day might be all about hearts and flowers, it is worth remembering that it’s celebrated during Heart Month here in Canada.
Approximately 2.4 million Canadians are affected by some form of heart disease, and most of us will know somebody with heart problems. What you may not have realized, is that poor oral health, and especially gum disease has been associated with higher rates of heart disease in numerous studies.
In 2012, the American Heart Association released a statement supporting an association between the two. Currently, it is still unclear whether one condition can actually cause the other, and especially as both health problems have similar risk factors. These risk factors include smoking, diabetes, and having a poor diet.
How Can Heart Disease and Oral Health Be Connected?
There are several theories as to why the two diseases are connected. One is that the bacteria that infect gums and cause gum disease can get into the bloodstream through bleeding gums and can travel elsewhere in the body through the blood vessels. Once in the blood vessels, these bacteria can cause inflammation, possibly creating tiny blood clots and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke. The idea is supported because remnants of oral bacteria have been discovered in atherosclerotic blood vessels. Another theory is that it’s the body’s immune response to the inflammation caused by these bacteria rather than the bacteria themselves that creates a cascade of vascular damage affecting the entire body and including the heart and brain.
It’s possible there is no direct connection between these two diseases, and that additional, well-known risk factors such as smoking, a lack of exercise or a lack of decent healthcare are contributing to poor oral health and heart disease. However, many studies have demonstrated an association between several serious health conditions, including heart disease and gum disease, even when the results were adjusted to account for these other risk factors.
Prevention is Always the Best Approach
Whether you believe the possible association between heart disease and oral health, we think a preventative approach is always the best solution. It’s why every patient here at West Bowmanville Family Dental receives a personalized treatment plan, based on their medical health and current oral health. We thoroughly recommend regular visits to the dentist in Newcastle, combined with regular oral hygiene appointments. Healthy oral habits can help to reduce your risk of gum disease and heart disease, and if you already have either of these problems, it can help to reduce their impact.
In addition to seeing us regularly, the following three tips will help keep your teeth and gums, and quite possibly your heart in great shape.
Brush and Floss Your Teeth Regularly
Make sure you brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day because this will remove plaque-forming bacteria that can cause gum disease. Don’t forget to floss once-a-day because your toothbrush cannot reach right in between your teeth. Flossing is the most effective way to remove plaque from these areas. If you’re unsure of how to floss properly, ask our hygienist for help next time you visit our dental office in Clarington.
Make sure your diet includes all the essential nutrients and particularly vitamins A and C. Try to limit your consumption of sugary foods and beverages, and especially in between meals. When you snack in between meals, it provides extra fuel for the bacteria that cause gum disease.
Avoid All Tobacco Products
If you smoke or use any form of tobacco products, make it your mission to quit. Smoking is a huge risk factor for heart disease and gum disease in Courtice.