heart troubles and dental care
It may not seem the most obvious connection, but researchers have established that oral health has a major impact on heart health. Numerous studies have indicated that neglecting your oral health can increase your risk of heart disease, as well as strokes, diabetes, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Heart health and oral health: the research
Most people know that avoiding fry-ups and doing exercise helps to boost heart health, but were you aware that brushing your teeth can also help to keep your heart healthy?
Researchers in Scotland found that people who have poor oral hygiene and gum disease have an increased risk of heart disease. A study involving more than 11,000 adults in Scotland showed that those with poor oral health were more likely to experience health problems than those who had a clean bill of oral health; the findings were published in the British Medical Journal in May 2010. For more information on oral health, visit the official British dentistry website.
In March 2012, researchers from Bristol University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland showed that dental plaque can trigger blood clots, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Researchers identified a strain of bacteria, Streptococcus gordonii, which contributes to dental plaque; the bacteria can travel from the mouth to other parts of the body, via the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response.
SimplyHealth is currently working with Heart Research UK to find out more about the relationship between heart health and dental health.
Tips for improving your oral health
Oral hygiene holds the key to good oral health and it is important to brush the teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time; brushing helps to remove plaque and left over food debris from the mouth. Flossing is also important because it enables you to reach areas that are difficult to negotiate with a toothbrush, such as the gaps between the teeth.
Regular dental visits are also really important, as they enable your dentist to identify and treat any problems as early as possible.
Your diet is an important consideration for both heart health and oral health and many of the foods that are bad for your teeth are also harmful for your heart, including sweets, biscuits, chocolate and cakes. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, drink plenty of water and milk and try to stick to 3 meals a day, rather than constantly snacking, as this is better for your blood sugar levels, as well as your dental health.
Healthy lifestyle choices for your heart
Lifestyle choices have a major influence on the health of your heart. As well as keeping an eye on your diet and remembering to incorporate fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet, it is also important to exercise on a regular basis and to monitor your alcohol intake; ideally, you should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week and drink no more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day. Smoking is major cause of oral diseases, as well as a risk factor for heart disease, cancer and strokes and if you smoke, quitting will reduce your risk of a host of life-threatening problems. Your dentist, practice nurse or GP can help you to give up smoking and provide you with information about local support groups and nicotine replacement methods.