Inflammation is your body’s response to an injury or illness and is, therefore, a critical element in your body’s immune response. While acute inflammation is essential to your body’s healing process, chronic inflammation is a common issue across major illnesses, including gingivitis, periodontal disease, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). These diseases are strongly linked, and therefore, maintaining proper oral hygiene habits are essential to keeping your heart healthy.
Individuals with gingivitis, or chronic gum disease, naturally have increased levels of inflammation as the body attempts to fend off the infection. However, individuals in a constant state of inflammation are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, as bacteria is passed around the body from the mouth to all other organs. Therefore, keeping your mouth healthy through preventative measures and treatment can have profound effects on your heart, body and overall health.
The Link Between Your Gums and Your Heart
Research shows that people with chronic gum disease are more likely to suffer from CVD than those without gingivitis. This is due to two contributing factors. First, bacterial infections in the mouth are more likely to spread to the rest of your body and cause infection and inflammation elsewhere. And second, chronic inflammation in your mouth can either be a trigger for or indicator of CVD.
When a part of your body becomes inflamed, your arteries enlarge to allow for your blood to carry greater concentrations of nutrients, hormones, and white blood cells (WBCs), which act as soldiers fighting the infection by swarming and ingesting the offending materials such as germs. While this immune response is essential to fighting off infection, if your body is under a constant state of inflammation, it is in an enormous amount of stress. And the chronic inflammation is often not localized and begins to spread across the body, linking to heart issues and stroke.
While it is unconfirmed if gum disease causes CVD or vice versa, the relationship is clear; Those with healthy gums are more likely to have a healthy heart.
Oral Health as an Early Warning System
Your mouth is an indicator of your overall health. This is because the mucosa, or pink gums that line your mouth, grow twice as fast as the skin on the outside of your body. When you are healthy, your gums will a normal color and no inflammation or bleeding. However, if you are experiencing issues with your heart or across other parts of your body, your gums will not repair properly. This means your gums you can potentially have sores, inflamed tissue, dark or scaly patches, and chronic infections. Therefore, if you or your child has gum problems, it’s time to go see your physician or pediatric dentist.
There are several warning signs you can look out for in the early stages of gum disease. Keep these in mind, and see your doctor if any persist. Also, regular visits to your dentist will help keep tabs on these potentially dangerous issues:
- Red, swollen, or sore gums
- Bleeding gums when flossing, brushing, or eating
- Infection or oozing sores in the mouth
- Gums retreating from your teeth, or loose teeth
- Frequent bad breath or metallic taste in your mouth
- Tooth enamel deterioration or discoloration
As you might guess, patients with poor gum or oral health have the highest risk for heart disease. However, even if you do not have any of the noticeable warning signs listed above, poor oral hygiene habits can put you at risk for heart issues down the road. Without appropriate cleaning habits, plaque can build-up on teeth and lead to bacteria and deteriorated gum health. This bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and place individuals at higher risk for inflammation and disease across the body.
The best method for preventing diseases caused by inflammation is through regular care and prevention. And for those with pre-existing conditions, regular oral hygiene can reduce negative effects of disease.
Daily oral hygiene and maintenance will keep your mouth clean and lower your risk of infection and inflammation. These steps are your best options for keeping your mouth and heart healthy!
- Daily brushing and flossing. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once at night will prevent plaque build-up and bacteria accumulation. Be sure to brush in circular motions and use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging your gums, and always brush at night after your last meal so as to avoid cavities. Also, dentists recommend the use of toothpaste that contains fluoride as soon as children grow teeth.
- Eat a healthy diet. Be sure to eat foods low in processed sugar, starch, and acid, and high in essential vitamins and nutrients. Apples and carrots are especially recommended by dentists because the act of eating these vegetables will increase plaque-flushing saliva, and are high fiber. And as always, drinking plenty of water will keep you healthy!
- Avoid tobacco products and cigarettes. Cigarettes have long been a known cause of heart disease, and can also cause mouth cancer and advance gum disease. Avoiding tobacco products altogether will prevent as well as reduce the impact of degenerative gum and heart disease.
- Preventative dentistry for children and adults. Visiting your dentist regularly is essential to maintaining good oral health. In addition to providing regular cleaning and maintenance, they will help keep an eye on gum and tooth health and can identify issues early for effective treatment and prevention.
Forming Good Habits for Lifelong Health
Research shows that teaching children to form healthy habits early-on in life will set them up for higher chances of maintaining oral hygiene and health later in life. By setting an example, parents can have a profound impact on their children’s attention to their oral health. They can also make the daily task of brushing and flossing more fun with songs, games, and stickers! But in the end, educating your children about the importance of oral hygiene will be an effective way of ensuring better overall health.
David Olson is a freelance writer and marketing content strategist. Aside from his copywriting work for B2B companies, he also investigates the latest developments in science and medicine.