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Brushing your teeth boasts many benefits, ranging from fresh breath to gum disease prevention. But you might be surprised to learn that good oral hygiene could also translate to a healthy heart.
The overarching reason? The whole body is related, and oral health is important for your overall health. But more specifically, scientists believe it’s possible inflammation caused by gum disease could increase the risk of heart disease.
Some studies have identified a link between gum disease and heart disease, though a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t yet been firmly established.
When it comes to good dental care, here are a few tips to keep your mouth healthy, plus how you can recognize the warning signs of gum disease.
- Regular brushing and flossing at home coupled with dental cleanings are the best habits for achieving good oral hygiene. Smoking or chewing tobacco increases your risk for gum disease. Other risk factors include having a family history of gum disease, a weakened immune system and eating a diet that’s high in sugar and carbs, which can help plaque grow. Also, hormonal changes that happen during puberty or pregnancy can cause changes to the gums and in some cases, lead to gingivitis, which is reversible, early-stage gum disease.
- If you’re a soda drinker or take your coffee with sugar, drink your beverage and be done with it, rather than sipping on it all day and allowing the sugar to continually coat your teeth. It’s best if you can brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with water when you finish a sugary beverage.
- There are two types of gum disease. Gingivitis is a gum disease that only affects the gum and soft tissues surrounding the teeth and is reversible and more easily treated. More advanced periodontitis not only affects the gums, but also damages the tissues and the bones supporting your teeth.
- Healthy gums are firm and pink. Signs of gingivitis include red, swollen and tender gums that might bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. Sometimes these signs go overlooked because people aren’t in pain. When gum disease advances to periodontitis, signs become more noticeable, though. When this more severe gum disease is present, you might notice gums that are pulling away from the teeth and possibly loose teeth.
- If you think you might have gum disease, you should make an appointment with your dentist. Early treatment can help reverse gum disease and prevent more serious problems.
Story by Kaiser Permanente