When we eat, the food that will nourish our bodies is taken in through our mouths. The mouth is an area that has a lot of bacteria in it, and plaque can build up in our mouths over time just like in our arteries. Your dental care is more connected to your heart health than you think. Infections or diseases in the mouth can affect our heart. What conditions in your mouth affect your heart?
People who have periodontal disease, or gum disease, are more likely to have heart attacks. Gum disease is usually the result of poor oral health, such as lack of brushing or improper brushing, little to no flossing, and not visiting your dentist regularly. With gum disease, plaque that forms on your teeth that has not been brushed away can form into tartar, a hard substance that is difficult to remove. This tartar can cause inflammation of the gums, causing your gums to pull back from your teeth, bleed, and harbor infection. This inflammation can be associated with inflammation in your arteries.
This inflammation in your arteries could be the result of bad bacteria in your mouth traveling through your blood stream. The bacteria could encourage inflammation, therefore allowing for further buildup of plaque in your arteries. This could lead to artherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Artherosclerosis is a common cause of heart attack and stroke. This link makes it more important than ever to practice good oral hygiene in your daily life. Brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly helps, but speak with your dentist about proper brushing techniques as well. If you smoke, this is a great time to quit. Smoking can encourage bad bacteria to grow in your mouth and lead to gum disease.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with gum disease, gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, can be just as bad. Gingivitis is a prelude to gum disease and can still cause your gums to swell and bleed due to bad bacteria in the mouth, plaque, and tartar. Plaque can harden over a 24-48 hour period, meaning proper brushing once a day is enough, but brushing twice a day will alleviate your chances of getting gingivitis or gum disease even more. If you smoke or eat a lot of refined sugars in your diet or other acidic foods, brushing and rinsing with water when you can’t brush is important. Bad oral bacteria from gingivitis can make its way into your bloodstream and could potentially be harmful to blood vessels and encourage blood clot formation.
Your mouth is not a separate entity from the rest of your body—it is connected, and in a vital way. The mouth is the entryway for our nourishment and this entryway happens to be crammed with bacteria, both good and bad. By keeping up with proper oral hygiene and visiting your dentist, you can minimize bad bacteria and plaque, therefore leading to a healthy mouth and heart!