Understanding the link between your heart and your mouth
20 September 2022
All of us have had those anxious moments when we’ve felt our heart is in our mouth, though quite literally, there is a connection between the two.
It is well established that heart disease which includes angina, heart attacks, blocked arteries and strokes are a leading cause of disability or death in the developed world, and have been linked to certain risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity etc. Research is now showing that people with periodontal (gum) disease have an increased risk of developing heart disease, especially if left unchecked and untreated. The same bacteria and toxins that cause gum disease in the mouth have been found in fatty deposits within clogged arteries.
Treating gum disease by itself without addressing any other risk factors will not completely prevent heart disease, it can however go a long way towards reducing the risk.
Gum disease, what’s that?
You may not know you have gum disease unless your dentist notices the warning signs. This is why it’s so important to have regular dental checks to monitor any oral health changes and detect and treat gum disease in its early stages. Check if:
Your gums are sore, look red and swollen. They may also appear to be pulling away from the teeth and pockets are forming between your teeth and gums.
Your teeth are loose and there are gaps forming in-between your teeth.
There is any bleeding when you brush and floss. You may notice blood on your toothbrush, or the floss and when you spit and rinse.
You have a bad taste in your mouth and/or you have bad breath.
There is pus and/or blood around your gums and on your teeth.
What can I do to look after my gums and heart?
In partnership with your dentist, you can do a lot to lower your individual risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
Brush your teeth twice every day with a soft-bristled brush which can reach all tooth surfaces. Speak with your dentist about the benefits of using an electric toothbrush. For some people this is a better option than a manual toothbrush.
Ask your GP about heart checks which suit your individual risk. In combination with oral health checks, blood tests and heart ultrasounds can help to predict future cardiac events.
Floss your teeth and gums at least once each day for at least two minutes. Take your time – between your teeth lies nearly half their surface area. Interdental brushes can compliment flossing and remove bacteria which can also be transmitted to the heart.
Use toothpaste with fluoride; this will help to maintain the hard, protective enamel tooth coating.
Eat a healthy diet which is low in sugar and carbohydrates. Avoid snacking between meals and drink water if you’re thirsty. A diet low in saturated fats will also support your heart health.
Visit your dentist every six months and more frequently if you’re advised to.
Your mouth can be an indicator for the rest of your bodies health and has a direct influence on your overall health. A comprehensive examination of your mouth can only be done by your dentist. Book an appointment soon; after all, your heart depends on it.