You do everything you can to keep your heart healthy—exercise, take aspirin and avoid foods that are prone to clog your arteries. But did you know one of the key ways for ensuring a strong, healthy heart is to simply brush your teeth?
According to research, keeping your teeth healthy by removing plaque from your pearly whites and flossing on a regular basis will in-turn keep your heart healthy. This is because if you don’t remove that gummy dental plaque—the filmy bacterium that builds up on your teeth throughout the day— you can get gum disease. And gum disease sparks a different kind of plaque, the kind that clogs your arteries.
The disease is called atherosclerosis and as mentioned briefly above, it’s the waxy buildup of plaques that form along the walls of the arteries. These plaques are dangerous, having the possibility to create a blood clot that can shoot straight to the heart or brain causing a heart attack, stroke or aneurism. Atherosclerosis doesn’t occur immediately. It’s typically a slow process that begins when you experience body-wide inflammation. And what causes this inflammation? Gum disease.
To prove what many dentists and cardiologist have known for years, researches at the University of Connecticut Health Center confirmed the link between gum disease and atherosclerosis.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gathered 120 adults who suffered from severe gum disease and atherosclerosis. Half were randomly selected to undergo routine dental cleaning while the other was assigned to receive extensive treatment to heal their infected gums. This meant not only aggressively removing plaque, but also extracting any unsalvageable teeth and supplying patients with antibiotics to treat the infected gums.
Within two months, those who underwent intensive treatment greatly improved the condition of their arteries more than those who only received routine dental cleaning. These improvements were still present after six months, according to the study.
So how to fight off gum disease and prevent atherosclerosis? Brush your teeth. Experts recommend brushing your teeth two to three times a day or after every meal for at least two minutes. Make sure to brush along the gum line as well, as this is how gum diseases start. Flossing daily will also prevent the dental plaque from building up. Also, be on the lookout for gingivitis which is a precursor to gum disease. Common signs are puffy, red, tender gums. Lastly, visit your dentist and have a routine cleaning regularly, about every six months.