Healthy Gums, Healthy Heart?
There’s no question that regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups can keep your mouth healthy. But if you fall short on your hygiene routine, can gum disease actually cause heart disease? Claiming around 610,000 lives each year, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. Did you know that research has found a link between this deadly disease and the health of your gums?
Despite the link between gum disease and heart disease, it’s not clear whether one actually causes the other, according to the American Heart Association. There’s – no conclusive evidence that preventing gum disease – periodontitis – can prevent heart disease or that treating gum disease can lessen atherosclerosis, the buildup of artery – clogging plaque that can result in a heart attack or stroke, according to an American Heart Association statement. However, periodontitis and heart disease share risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes, and both contribute to inflammation in the body. Although these shared risk factors may explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth can occur simultaneously, some evidence suggests that there may be an independent association between the two diseases.
PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE
Regular healthy habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And if you already have one or both of these conditions, these strategies can help reduce their impact.
BRUSH AND FLOSS REGULARLY
To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
CHOOSE A HEALTHY DIET
Eat foods rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce or eliminate sugar and starches.
Even smokeless tobacco can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.
VISIT THE DENTIST REGULARLY
Your dentist can identify signs of systemic illness and catch gum disease early on. Always tell your dentist your medical history, current conditions and any medications you’re taking.
Treating gum disease can go a long way in lessening the impact of coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Patients who were treated for gum disease have lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations for CAD.