Taking Care of Your Teeth Can Help Your Heart

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Oral Health and Heart DiseaseWhen I was a kid, my dentist and mother would tell me I had to brush my teeth at least twice a day; if I didn’t, nobody would ever want to kiss me. It worked.

I’ve always thought oral hygiene was extremely important and have done my best to keep my mouth in the best shape possible. I go to the dentist every six months, brush two to three times per day, and try to floss at least once per day. From time to time, I’ll swish around some mouthwash, too.

As I got older, kissing wasn’t my prime motivation for taking care of my mouth. Neither was the cost of making semi-annual trips to the dentist. Instead, it was reducing my risk of other health issues that have been linked to poor oral hygiene.

In recent years, there have been some studies that link gum disease and poor oral hygiene to heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. The links are based on the notion that poor oral health causes inflammation where bacteria gets inside the body, making its way into the bloodstream and then causes further health problems.

A recent review by the American Heart Association concluded that oral health does not directly affect heart disease. That being said, the fact that there isn’t a direct cause and effect relationship doesn’t mean it might not play a role in some way, shape, or form in the development of other health problems.

When it comes to my health—and something as easy as oral hygiene—I’d rather be safe than sorry. Practicing good oral hygiene can save you lots of money, make you more kissable, and potentially protect you from other health concerns. Here are a few basic tips on how to take care of your mouth:

  • Brush your teeth for about two or three minutes at least twice a day, especially before bed.
  • Floss your teeth at least once per day to remove any food particles stuck where your brush can’t reach
  • Replace your brush every few months or when the bristles begin to fray.
  • Try to visit your dentist at least every 12 months, but every six months is highly recommended.

Saint Louis, C., “Study Ties Oral Hygiene to Cancer-Causing Virus,” New York Times web site, August 21, 2013; http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/study-ties-poor-oral-hygiene-to-cancer-causing-virus/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0, last accessed February 18, 2014.
Grogan, M., “Heart Disease Prevention: Does Oral Health Matter?” Mayo Clinic web site, November 14, 2012; http://www.mayoclinic.org/heart-disease-prevention/expert-answers/FAQ-20057986/?7454953=1&pubDate=02%2F12%2F2014, last accessed February 18, 2014.