If you’re wondering what brushing your teeth has to do with a healthy heart, you’re not alone. In the past few years, scientists have been studying (and debating) the potential link between oral health and heart health. Those who have periodontal (gum) disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, says the American Academy of Periodontology.
While the American Heart Association has not confirmed a “causative link” between gum disease and heart disease, and both opinions and studies among health professionals have been mixed, there is an acknowledged bacteria-inflammation connection when it comes to oral health and a healthy heart.
Bacteria from your mouth’s dental plaque can enter the bloodstream through the gums and attach to fatty build-ups in the vessels, contributing to blockages. As a result, inflammation (or swelling)—the body’s defense against bacteria—could lead to a narrowing of arteries and blood clots.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so remember to get kids into the good habit of learning how to brush their teeth early. Starting at 12 months old, parents can start using toothpaste to brush their children’s teeth. Begin flossing as soon as the spaces between kids’ teeth begin to close. Parents: Practice what you preach by brushing regularly, twice a day yourself, to set the good example. Schedule dental check-ups/cleanings every six months (for you, and your kids). Be sure to check your mouths often for signs of periodontal disease (bleeding, bright red, or swollen gums, gums that are receding, or bad breath are telltale signs).
While research and debate continue, the bottom line is that brushing your teeth may be just one more way to help keep your heart healthy and protected from unwanted invaders.
Now that’s something to smile about!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano