How to protect your heart by caring for your teeth

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Most people understand that good oral health is an important part of maintaining excellent overall health. New research however shows that cleaning and caring for your teeth is even more important for the upkeep of health than previously considered. New research suggests a strong link between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular risk. This new information is of value to patients as well as dentists, who have the skills and expertise to spot a number of emerging health problems.

Periodontal disease happens when bacteria builds up in the mouth and consumes sugars found in food. Compounds are then released, causing inflammation of the gums. Signs of severe periodontal disease includes loose, shifting or missing teeth as well as deep pockets around teeth. Coronary heart disease on the other hand develops when fat deposits and other substances (called plaques) in the bloodstream stick to the side of the arteries. The plaques build up and narrow the arteries. A heart attack or stroke is possible if the plaques block the blood flow.

The connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular risk has been analyzed in a number of research papers and studies during the last fifteen years. Reports suggest that patients with gum disease are more likely to develop cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks or strokes. In addition, it was found that the more severe the periodontal problems, the poorer the health of the heart. This is an important association, with serious consequences for those concerned.

The exact reason for the relationship between periodontal diseases with cardiovascular problems is currently unknown. It is therefore not clear whether periodontal disease actually causes heart disease or whether they are just symptoms of one another.

Suggestions for reasons behind the relationship include oral bacteria entering the bloodstream through the gums and contributing to blockages, which can cause heart attacks. Another proposition involves the bacteria provoking inflammation while travelling around the body, causing blood cells to swell and narrow arteries.

Regardless of the meaning of the connection, periodontal disease remains an important indicator for the presence of heart disease. Cardiovascular diseases often have few or no symptoms so it can be difficult to catch early. In this way, dentists play a vital role in the maintenance of good overall health. In addition, the higher risk for heart disease is lessened when the gum disease is treated. Your dentist is the best authority on the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease.

Alongside regular dental check-ups, there are a number of measures you can take to improve your oral health and also lower your risk for related cardiovascular issues. Brushing teeth twice a day in addition to daily flossing is the easiest way to maintain good oral health. Brushing teeth removes the bacteria that contribute to gum disease and flossing ensures the space between teeth is clear too. Drinking water throughout the day can help wash away harmful bacteria and benefit overall health.

A balanced diet and the absence of sugary snacks also go a long way to preventing periodontal issues. Fruit and vegetables are recommended teeth and heart friendly snacks.

If you already have periodontal disease, you may need to rethink your brushing and flossing techniques and/or habits. It is important to use the correct equipment in the most effective manner. Speak to your dentist for more advice and recommendations to improve your dental and overall health. If you have a history of heart disease in your family, make sure your dentist is aware and take extra time to reduce your risk factors. An extra five minutes every day spent caring for your teeth and gums could be a lifesaver.

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