Regular brushing and flossing can prevent oral disease, but it may also be able to protect your heart. You may have heard that bad dental hygiene is linked to heart disease; although no direct caution has been proven, numerous studies show that gum disease and bad brushing habits have been linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease.
But why do people who don’t brush enough or floss regularly show a higher prevalence of heart disease? The answer lies in the connection between our mouth and heart.
Gum Disease Introduces Bacteria to Our Body
Our mouths are full of bacteria, some good and some bad. The type of bacteria that causes gum disease, particularly gingivitis and periodontitis, spread throughout our blood vessels and reach other parts of the body. Inflammation leads to small blood clots, which elevate the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
So far, antibiotic treatment has not proven effective in reducing the risk of heart disease or helped prevent a heart attack. Studies have found that cardiovascular problems aren’t the only side-effect of poor dental hygiene; some studies have linked gum disease to rheumatoid arthritis and even pancreatic cancer.
Brushing Your Teeth Can Save Your Heart
A studypresented at the 2018 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago found that poor tooth-brushing habits were associated with an increased risk of dying from heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke.
Researchers interviewed 682 people about their brushing habits and found that those with the poorest level of care were more likely to die from cardiovascular complications. Those who brushed less than twice a day for under two minutes at a time were at the greatest risk.
Dr. Shogo Matsui, the study’s lead researcher, said the findings suggest that “poor oral health based on daily teeth-brushing behavior is associated with poorer heart health.” Dr. Matsui is a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University in Japan.
The results of the study and numerous others do not definitively link causation, but they do suggest at least link to other areas of health. Those who neglect their oral hygiene, including receiving regular preventative dental care, most likely neglect other aspects of their health as well, such as proper nutrition and routine exercise.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Heart
You should brush your teeth at least two times a day for a minimum of two minutes each session. In addition, you should floss once a day, typically before bed. Annual dental visits and cleanings can help diagnose and treat gum disease.
Talk to your dentist about how to protect your heart health through better oral hygiene. They can help you implement healthier brushing habits and show you how to effectively clean your teeth. This can be especially helpful for those who have damaged teeth, crowding or other dental problems that may impact the quality of their normal brushing and flossing.