This February is American Heart Month, a great time to evaluate not just your heart but your overall health. Your systemic health and even oral hygiene can affect the condition of your heart in a few surprising ways.
In 2012, the American Heart Association published a statement linking heart disease to periodontitis, and a number of studies support this conclusion. Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround the tooth, which can lead to inflammation and swelling. Heart disease, on the other hand, is inflammation and narrowing of the arteries that surround the heart, and it can lead to heart attacks and stroke. The two have been strongly correlated.
Cause and Effect
There are a number of reasons why the two conditions might be linked. It is entirely possible that the inflammation, infection, and bacteria that appear in unhealthy gums can spread through the bloodstream to the heart, since the gums have a large number of blood vessels in them. It is also possible that causation works in the other direction, and that inflammation in the heart can spread to the gums.
Another distinct possibility is that heart and gum disease are linked to a third, distinct condition. The inflammation might come from another source and cause both problems; it is also worth noting that both heart disease and periodontitis have been linked to risk factors such as old age, smoking, and diabetes.
If you are trying to take better care of your heart this February, you can help your mouth out at the same time. By giving up cigarettes and alcohol, you can improve both your cardiovascular and oral health. You can also improve your systemic health by cutting back on sugar, which can help you lose weight and avoid tooth decay. Finally, although it has not been proven that brushing and flossing more often can improve your heart health, it certainly won’t hurt you!
To learn more about how oral hygiene can affect your overall health, set up a meeting with Dr. Michael Schroer today. Call (757) 645-9565 for an appointment.