Protecting Your Gums and Your Heart

Any trip to the dentist’s office for a teeth cleaning means you’ve heard them tell you to floss. Flossing helps remove plaque and bacteria that are not easily reached by your toothbrush. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. It starts as an invisible bacterial film that develops on your teeth, which eventually turns in to tartar. Good oral hygiene, including flossing and brushing, is an essential component of good oral health.

Current scientific studies don’t show a direct link between poor oral hygiene and heart disease. However, there appears to be a connection between an unhealthy mouth and the potential to develop heart disease. Common risk factors for both include smoking and an unhealthy diet, which could explain the association between the two. Gum (periodontal) disease has been linked to diabetes and heart disease, which is more prevalent in patients who smoke. Gingivitis doubles the risk of heart disease.

The presence of periodontal disease can be an indicator or warning sign of other diseases in your body. Periodontal disease and heart disease have several risk factors in common (age, along with ethnicity, gender, smoking, diabetes, and other illnesses), making the correlation between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease apparent.

Managing your overall health means taking care of your mouth, which is often forgotten. Here are a few tips for improving oral health:

Schedule dental appointments every six months: Dentists looks for much more than just cavities and plaque. They also examine your mouth for abnormal growths, cracks in your teeth, oral cancer, and gum disease. They also take your blood pressure. If it’s too high or if there are changes in your mouth, they may refer you to see your doctor. These developments may indicate a bigger health concern.

Brush and floss daily: Ideally, you should brush and floss at least twice a day. Neglect can cause changes in gum tissue, resulting in swollen or bleeding gums, receding gums that leave your teeth looking longer than normal, and bone destruction.  These indicate that a higher number of periodontal bacteria may be present. Don’t get in the habit of letting periodontal bacteria stay concentrated in your mouth. 

Don’t skip your physical: See your physician regularly. If you are concerned about preventing heart disease, ask your doctor about proven ways to reduce your risks.

Dr. Jodi Rump is a dentist and owner of Main Street Dental. For an appointment, call 901.527.0716 or visit msdmemphis.com.

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