There are a lot of reasons people focus on their dental hygiene. You might brush everyday to avoid cavities and gum disease. Maybe you take care of your dental health with the intention of keeping a beautiful and white smile. But, did you know that taking care of your dental health could also help defend against heart disease?
Specifically, good gum health may be a vital aspect of keeping your heart healthy. An underlying factor of disease is inflammation. For instance, constant inflammation can lead to cancer. When parts of your body are inflamed, your immune system has to work in overdrive to heal itself. Sometimes this exhausting process can destroy parts of your body, leading to disease.
Chronic Inflammation and Cancer
What do we mean by inflammation? Inflammation is a physical condition, where part of your body is in pain, red, or swollen, as a result of an infection or injury. To describe the process in the simplest form, we will give an example of acid reflux leading to throat cancer.
So, say that your throat is chronically inflamed from acid reflux. Your immune system sends “worker cells” to help heal the lesions in the throat created from the acid. Sometimes these cells can become mutated as the throat tries to heal itself, causing them to divide at a rapid rate, leading to esophageal cancer.
Inflammation and Gum Disease
In both gum disease and heart disease, your body reacts to the inflammatory process by creating hardened plaque. When you suffer from gum disease, the bacteria lurking around your gums cause inflammation in your mouth. That’s why when you go for a long time without flossing, your gums bleed. At the same time, heart disease causes hardening in the arteries from plaque buildup.
A lot of research has been conducted on finding a link between heart and dental health. One study with over 50,000 participants found that people with missing teeth and gum disease had a higher risk of stroke.
Gum disease is a risk factor for heart disease, because it allows bacteria from your mouth to travel to other parts of your body, causing inflammation in your arteries. Another study found a correlation with gum disease and clogged arteries in the leg. Other evidence shows the two diseases are related, as the same strain of bacteria found in gum disease was also found in the blood vessels.
Keeping Your Heart and Gums Healthy
Keeping your gums in shape to avoid gum disease isn’t an easy feat. Even if you brush twice daily and go to the dentist regularly, you’re still likely to have gum disease, if you don’t floss daily. Getting into the habit of flossing is difficult. Comedian Mitch Hedberg said that it’s even more difficult than kicking a nicotine addiction.
So, get in the habit of flossing correctly. You can also try rinsing your mouth with an antiseptic rinse, if you’re already suffering from gum disease. Your dentist can help you figure out a good regimen for your unique situation.
Another way to avoid heart disease and gum disease is by cutting out poor lifestyle choices. Smoking is a common cause of both diseases. Smoking cuts down the blood flow to your gums and heart, making it harder for your body to remove toxins and provide nutrients. Take care of your body by taking care of your mouth. Remember that prevention is the best medicine.