Everyone’s mouth is full of bacteria. And how you take care of your teeth and gums will reflect on your oral (and physical) health. Untreated gum disease has proven to increase risk of heart disease, leaving you susceptible to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Fortunately, there are ways to help you avoid developing periodontal disease and its potentially deadly consequences.

Poor Dental Care is No Smiling Matter

Many people do not care for their oral hygiene in the best manner possible. There are several reasons why:
– lack of awareness of types of care and the serious need for care
– inability to afford care
– fear of going to the dentist
– difficulty accessing public dental service
Swollen, sore, and inflamed gums are main signs of gum disease. There are two types of periodontal issues:
Gingivitis is marked by red, tender, painful gums often accompanied by bad breath.
Periodontitis is more intense and often includes pockets of bacterial infection, pus, and extreme pain.

Who is at Risk for Gum Disease?

Basically any person who does not brush or floss often enough, or get their teeth cleaned by a professional once or twice a year is at risk for gum disease. In a 2010 report, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that one in every two adults over 30 years old had periodontal disease.
Here are the top reasons why gum disease develops:

  • Plaque build-up. A thick film of bacteria forms on teeth and gums.
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal shifts
  • Chronic stress
  • Crooked teeth
  • Prescription medication


How is Dental Care Related to Heart Disease?

Research has shown that bacteria from oral plaque in those with periodontitis has been found in arteries of the heart. That plaque can eventually cause a heart attack. Additionally, according to the Harvard Heart Letter it’s possible that the inflammation in the mouth leads to inflammation in other parts of the body, including arteries in the heart.
Chewing and brushing your teeth releases bacteria into the bloodstream. The risk of emergent heart disease is doubled for those with gum disease. It makes sense then, to try and avoid developing gingivitis or periodontitis by practicing good oral hygienic habits.

Hope for the Heart

Besides dental care maintenance, a recent study out of China has revealed that aggressive treatment of gum disease can help lower blood pressure. Over 100 Chinese men and women with high blood pressure were part of the research. Half were treated with regular cleanings, while the other half received thorough treatment for periodontitis.
The intensive treatments included antibiotics, tooth removal (if necessary), and cleaning down to the roots of the remaining teeth. Those participants showed a drop of three systolic points after a month, and a drop of over 12 systolic blood pressure points six months after the treatment. Diastolic pressure dropped approximately four points. (Those who had a regular cleaning showed no change in blood pressure numbers.)
So, can improvement of oral health treatment prevent cardiovascular problems? It seems likely to be so.

Word of Mouth

The American Dental Association recommends:

  • Brushing at least twice per day and spending at least four seconds on each tooth each time. (That’s about 2-3 minutes each brushing.)
  • Flossing at least once a day or using another method that cleans thoroughly between each tooth.
  • Decrease sugar consumption in foods and beverages.
  • Visit a dentist regularly for a hygienic cleaning, prevention, and treatment of oral disease (which includes gum disease.)

Another recommendation from holistic dentists is the ancient practice of oil pulling. Many people today swear by it for thorough cleaning of teeth, tongue, and gums. Some stores sell essential oil flavored mixtures, but coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil will do just fine as well.
You do not gargle with it—rather you swish the oil inside your mouth, pulling it through the crevasses of your teeth. You also never swallow it. Swirl it around with your tongue and jaw for several minutes. When done, spit it out. Rinse your mouth with fresh water.
Basically, brush, floss, keep sugar consumption low, manage your stress, don’t smoke, and you should be able to avoid developing gum disease. In turn, you will find yourself at less risk for cardiovascular disease. Being that heart disease is the #1 killer, perhaps starting with your dental care is a simple way to stay on a healthy living track. Check out GetThrive! for more up-to-date health tips for you and your loved ones.