According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack, where blood flow is blocked from a portion of the heart. Strokes, where the brain doesn’t receive enough blood and oxygen, account for one in three American deaths.
While the main causes of cardiovascular disease are high blood pressure and obesity, most people don’t know that poor oral health can also lead to heart disease, and that’s an issue with 1.5 million strokes and heart attack events occur annually.
The How and The Why
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is an infection of the gums due to bacteria in the mouth that can eventually lead to blockages in the bloodstream. This blockage leads to an increase in the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack. Luckily, periodontitis is largely preventable. It’s usually the result of poor oral hygiene and although preventative measures are the best treatment, often a good first step is to implement good oral hygiene strategies.
Researchers conducted a study and found that there is an increased risk of ischemic strokes, which account for 87% of all strokes, in patients with periodontitis. This is because the more sanguinis bacteria, which is connected to periodontitis, the thicker the plaque in the arteries of the neck. This buildup of plaque makes pumping blood to the brain harder for the heart which can ultimately cause a stroke.
Heart attacks, like strokes, are generally caused by an obstruction to the bloodstream. The same bacteria, sanguinis, can enter into the bloodstream and causes arteries to harden with plaque. The solidified plaque in the arteries causes the narrowing of critical arteries resulting in the inability to transfer blood to the heart.
With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in the world, it is critical to be aware of prevention techniques. The American Academy of Periodontology put together the following list to highlight the best daily habits to add to your routine. The best part? They’re all pretty easy and don’t take too much time:
- Choosing a toothpaste: Consider a toothpaste with fluoride, as it has been shown to help prevent cavities as well as the early stages of tooth decay.
- Brushing your teeth: Ideally, you brush your teeth after every meal for 2 minutes. Though, we understand time can be difficult to find, at the very least try to brush, both your teeth and your tongue, right when you wake up and right before you go to bed.
- Flossing: If you can’t floss every day, try once a week, then every other day. Food particles and plaque hang out in hard-to-reach spots that brushing can’t reach, so flossing is vital to your oral care routine.
- Swishing with mouthwash: A whole minute can feel daunting. Try slowly building up your tolerance, even 30 seconds a day is immensely helpful. When choosing a mouthwash, try to find one that has the ADA Seal to ensure that it has been tested for maximum effectiveness.
- Knowing your risk: It’s best to talk with your dental professional to see if you are at an increased risk for periodontal disease. Common facts that can increase your risk are smoking, diet, age, and genetics.
Periodontitis can be very painful and require surgery in its latter stages, so preventative care is that much more important. Not only will being proactive about your smile save you time, money, and potential pain, it can also decrease your likelihood of more extreme complications. We at the Virtudent team cannot stress the importance of prioritizing your well-being and implementing a 4-minute dental routine is a great place to start.