08:38 AM

Love Your Heart

By Dr. Doyle Williams

In support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign and American Heart Month, I’m taking a brief break from blogs in celebration of Children’s Dental Health Month to speak to women and men about oral health and heart disease.

The connection between oral health and overall health tells us something important: the mouth is a vital health indicator for the rest of the body.

The bacteria in our mouths that contribute to bleeding gums and tooth loss have also been found in our arteries. Some researchers believe that the presence of gum disease-causing bacteria in the arteries may contribute to our chances of heart disease.

How? The thinking is that the inflammation in our gums causes swelling of our arteries which constricts them and may make cholesterol blockage easier.

It is also thought that the gum disease bacteria actually stick to cholesterols and fats in our arteries making the blockage more likely as they accumulate.

Whatever the cause and effect, people with gum disease are twice as likely to also have heart disease. And, bleeding gums, which are a symptom of gum disease, may be the earliest indicator before any other signs of heart disease can be detected.

That’s another reason why it is important to brush and floss daily – to remove the bacteria from your mouth. If you see signs of blood when you brush, make an appointment with your oral health professional. Gum (periodontal) disease can be managed and controlled if it is caught early.

In 2010, the American Heart Association set a strategic goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20% while improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020.

Make heart health a habit – brush and floss every day.