A Million Hearts: Improving Oral Care for Healthier Hearts
By Brian B. Nový, D.D.S. F.A.D.I., Director of Practice Improvement, DentaQuest Institute
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson designated February as “American Heart Month,” drawing national drew attention to heart disease, today’s number one killer in America. Heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
To further President Johnson’s effort and heart disease prevention overall, President Barack Obama officially launched “Million Hearts” in 2011. Aiming to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services co-sponsored this national initiative on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This initiative seeks to:
- Improve access to effective care;
- Focus clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke; and
- Motivate the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.
There is an association between gum disease and heart disease. In fact, people with moderate to advanced gum disease are 25 to 50 percent more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.
What exactly is the connection between gum disease and heart disease? According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that the inflammation and infections associated with oral bacteria might be linked to heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
Prevention is necessary when combating bacteria that leads to the inflammation associated with gum and heart disease. Regularly brushing and flossing combined with bi-annual dental appointments are important steps to remove the bacteria, plaque and tartar that are detrimental to your oral – and heart – health.
As an additional step, dentists can learn to identify warning signs for heart disease and encourage patients to get screened if their mouths show signs of bacteria or inflammation during a routine cleaning or check-up.
At DentaQuest, we share many of the same goals that the Million Hearts initiative aims to achieve. Expanding access to care, stressing the importance of prevention, and improving the oral health of all are points that we live out day to day as a part of our core values.
Since the mouth is the gateway to the body, living a life with positive oral health habits can also lead to a heart and overall-healthy lifestyle. So this American Heart Month, don’t forget about the connection between oral and heart health.