Discover the link between heart attack and unhealthy teeth and gums and inflammation. Brisbane Holistic Dentist Dr Rachel Hall of Evolve Dental Healing Kenmore explains why keeping your mouth healthy keeps your body and heart healthy too.
When someone has a heart attack, we tend to look to their diet as the reason. After all, unhealthy eating damages your arteries and will eventually cause a heart attack.
Yet many of us know people who have sworn off fast food and eat the cleanest diet possible but still suffer cardiac arrest, so it’s clear that other factors are at play – and oral health is a surprisingly big one.
When you think about it, it makes sense: Inflammation is behind heart disease, driving the progression of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries and causing the ruptures that lead to the formation of clots. While systemic inflammation can increase as a result of problems like a poor diet, obesity and malnutrition, one big source of chronic inflammation is periodontal disease.
This chronic infection of the gums leads not only to gum tissue inflammation but also eventually destroys the bones surrounding the teeth. More than 400 different species of bacteria populate our mouths, and some of them are pathogenic (harmful and disease creating).
When a person has periodontal disease, it causes inflammatory mediators in the all of the body to rise, including the coronary arteries and the plaque already inside of them. When the disease isn’t controlled, this causes arterial plaque to develop and makes the existing plaque more susceptible to rupturing, which in turn causes a heart attack.
There’s also the fact that inflammation of the gums makes it easier for bacteria to get into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body, including to the plaque in your coronary arteries, which it can then infect.
Scientists know this is the case because DNA analysis of the bacteria found in coronary artery plaque has determined that such infections can originate from periodontal disease.
Some strains of oral bacteria can also make your blood more likely to clot, which is even further bad news for coronary arteries.
If you only tend to floss in the days leading up to your dental check-ups, it’s time for a shift in attitude. Even if your teeth aren’t high on your priority list, your heart health certainly should be all the motivation you need to take a few extra minutes each day to get gum care right.
Even if you go to the dentist regularly, home care is ultimately what will shape your dental health and prevent inflammation from getting out of hand.
Brush your teeth after every meal using a soft toothbrush, preferably the electric or sonic varieties.
Spend no less than two minutes brushing and be sure your brush is angled toward your gum line so the bristles can get at any bacteria there. Don’t forget to floss to get to the areas that your toothbrush simply can’t reach, no matter how good it is. This will help prevent cavities from developing between your teeth.
Be sure to get professional cleanings from your dentist regularly. It’s also important to get periodic checkups so that any cavities that are developing can be identified and dealt with before they create greater problems.
You can also help prevent heart attacks and strokes with CoQ10 supplements. This substance, which is found in nearly every cell of your body, has been shown in studies to provide significant benefits when it comes to cardiovascular disease, including reducing the chance of suffering a repeat heart attack and lowering blood pressure. It is also good for gum health. Combine this with good oral care.
Taking good care of your teeth and gums is one of the safest and most natural ways to reduce your heart attack risk. If you’ve been ignoring your dental health, now is the perfect time to start a new, healthier routine.