Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Brush Your Teeth for a Healthy Smile and a Happy Heart
A trip to the dentist may mean more than just a healthy smile. A growing body of research suggests a strong link between oral health and heart health. Although the connection is not completely understood, the common pathway appears to be inflammation. When the gums are inflamed in periodontal (gum) disease, detectable levels of inflammation in the blood stream also rise, and it is thought that this inflammatory reaction may in turn affect the arteries that feed the heart.
Until recently, our understanding of the relationship between heart health and oral health was based on studies of relatively small groups of people. A recent report from the Scottish Health Survey took the question further by analyzing the tooth brushing habits of nearly 12,000 Scottish men and women without heart disease, and then following the participants for an average of eight years. They also measured blood levels of inflammation in nearly 5000 of those studied.
Overall, most people took fairly good care of their teeth. About two-thirds visited a dentist every six months and brushed at least twice daily. Only about five percent rarely if ever brushed their teeth. When other risk factors were taken into account, those who ignored their dental health were 70 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event when compared to those with good dental hygiene. Not surprisingly, they also had higher blood levels of inflammation.
The take home message is as simple as the little goodie bag your dentist may give you after your checkup. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss at least once per day. You’ll look great, feel better, and keep your heart healthier.
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