Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and seeing a dentist regularly for cleanings can protect the health of our gums. Since the body and mouth are not separate, taking good care of our teeth and gums can affect our overall health and may help us to live longer. There is scientific research that supports a potential link between dental health and heart health. Therefore, the simple daily habits of brushing and flossing may be more important than we think.
The Connection Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Bacteria. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria and builds up on teeth. The bacteria in this plaque can cause decay and gum disease if it is not removed regularly through brushing, flossing and dental cleanings.
Inflammation. Gum disease is a serious driver of inflammation. Inflammation is a protective mechanism and indicates that the body is fighting something harmful and trying to defend itself. It is possible that inflammation in the gums triggers a cascade that can lead to inflammation in the cardiovascular system and plaque formation.
High Blood Pressure. New research in the American Heart Association’s journal ‘Hypertension’ accentuates the importance of good oral health in blood pressure control. The study findings showed that people with high blood pressure that have healthier gums responded better to blood-pressure lowering medications and had lower blood pressure than those who had gum disease. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke.
Tips to Improve Oral Health and Heart Health
Stop Smoking. Not smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your mouth and your body. Smokers have a much higher risk of gum disease and heart disease, and smoking promotes inflammation.
Manage Stress. When we are under stress the immune system’s ability to fight off infection is compromised. Increased stress also leads to elevated cortisol which increases blood pressure, makes us insulin resistant leading to diabetes, increases inflammation in our body and increases cholesterol.
Eat a Balanced Diet. A healthy diet helps to fight infection by boosting the immune system. Eating foods high in antioxidants can help our bodies repair damaged tissues. A plant based whole foods diet is key. Eating a rainbow of colors is important. It is important to reduce processed foods in our diet and take time to mindfully eat and enjoy our food.
Exercise. Being physically active is one of the best ways to strengthen the heart muscle, maintain a healthy weight and protect our arteries from damage. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes per week with a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Find activities that you enjoy.
Sleep. Lack of sleep may weaken our immune system and our body’s ability to deal with inflammation or infection. Lack of sleep can also lead to elevated blood pressure and blood sugars which are risk factors for vascular disease. Practice good sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques and aim for seven to nine hours each night.
Practice Good Oral Care. Be sure to brush and floss twice a day and make an appointment with your dentist for advice regarding your personal care and recommended schedule of visits. Taking good care of your oral health can be a part of your heart-healthy routine.
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham