Ah, February, the month of love. Which also happens to be American Heart Month! Did you know that to keep your heart healthy you need healthy gums as well? Your gums are there to hold the roots of your teeth in place. When you don’t properly take care of your teeth and gums by brushing twice a day and flossing at least once, they’re at a higher risk of periodontal disease.
More commonly known as gum disease, its effects vary from redness and swelling, to complete destruction of the tooth’s bone support. Which often ends in tooth loss. The bacteria that cause gum disease can also travel into your bloodstream, causing blood vessel inflammation and damage to your heart. It also leaves tiny blood clots in its wake, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Luckily there are a bunch of things you can do to keep that smile, and heart, safe and healthy!
Here are 10 tips and tricks to keep your mouth, and your heart healthy this Valentine’s Day!
- Brush your teeth correctly: Brushing is extremely important to your oral and overall health. The ADA recommends that you brush gently, in short strokes, and at a 45-degree angle for 2 minutes. This prevents the bristles from removing the enamel that protects your teeth. When brushing the backs of your teeth, it’s best to turn the brush vertically and make multiple short strokes on every tooth.
- Know when to toss it: Your toothbrush only needs to stick around for about 3 months, or until the bristles start to fray. When they begin to fray, your brush won’t do its job properly leaving your mouth defenseless against harmful bacteria. Speaking of which, after a while, your toothbrush will start to gather food particles and bacteria that can’t be rinsed away with water. When you don’t replace your brush, all that bacteria gets reintroduced posing a bigger threat to your dental and heart health. This is why it’s important to pay attention to how long you’ve had your brush, notice what condition it’s in, and take action when it’s time for a new one.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: Fluoride, known as natures cavity fighter, is a mineral found in the earth’s core. Before our teeth come in, our body is absorbing fluoride through our nutrients to help build a resistance to tooth decay, this is called a systemic benefit. Once our teeth are in, brushing or using other dental products with fluoride helps rebuild the eroded enamel and reverse the effects of tooth decay. With the risk of tooth decay lowered by using fluoride products, your chances of a heart attack or stroke also decrease.
- How to rinse: Contrary to common belief, you are not supposed to rinse your mouth with only water immediately after brushing. When you do this, you are taking all that wonderful fluoride we talked about in #3 and spitting it down the drain. By rinsing right after you brush you aren’t giving the fluoride enough time to attach to your teeth and patch up all that worn-down enamel. It’s best to rinse with water before you spit the foamy left-over toothpaste out. This allows your teeth to absorb the fluoride while rinsing out all the toothpaste.
- What to do about sweets: As you may know, sugar is possibly one of the worst things out there for you. Besides its obvious risks of excess sugar, obesity, and diabetes, sugar can have a bad effect on your teeth, gums, and heart. Sugar can increase the triglyceride (fat) in the blood, that fat can then get clogged in your arteries which could result in heart failure. Sugar also puts your teeth and gums at risk of acid attacks. When sugar binds with the bacteria in our mouths it creates acid. This acid can stick to enamel and cause it to erode. It’s best if you eat and drink sugar in small portions; and, if you’re craving something sweet have a bowl of fruit or some dark chocolate. They are both great for your heart and your smile.
- Valentine’s candy and ortho appliances: If you have braces, the same candy rules still apply, chewy or sticky candy can get stuck in your brackets. The sugar then reacts with the bacteria in your mouth creating a white film around the brackets. This substance is nearly impossible to clean and can cause extended acid attacks and increases your risk of cavities.
- Floss daily: While flossing may be the most tedious part of your dental routine it is also the most important. The bristles on your toothbrush are too wide to get all the yucky plaque that gets stuck between your teeth. When you don’t floss that plaque sits in-between your teeth and hardens. After it has adhered to your tooth it will then make its way down to the root which can cause gum disease and recession.
- Cut the Tobacco: Another thing that may be worse for your mouth than sugar is tobacco products. Usage minimizes the amount of blood flow to the gums which can cause and hide signs of gum disease. While using tobacco you are 3 times more likely to develop gum disease, which elevates your risk of heart disease. The nicotine in tobacco reduces saliva flow and causes dry mouth. Both can end in tooth loss due to the lack of moisture in your gums.
- Tongues are important: When you forget to brush your tongue all the bacteria that cause bad breath, and plaque that causes cavities just sits there. Even after you have brushed your teeth if you don’t brush your tongue all the bacteria and plaque will attach itself onto your tooth roots and gums. This can lead to gum disease as well.
- Checkups: This is the most important part of your dental routine. By visiting your dentist twice a year you are showing your teeth the necessary TLC with a little professional help. Your dentist can clean your teeth, check for cavities, and catch issues in your mouth before they turn into bigger problems
Remember to brush 2x a day and floss at minimum once a day because dental hygiene is a vital part of your overall health. These are only a few tips and tricks, ask us at your next appointment how you can give your teeth some love. Make your heart and teeth happy by scheduling your appointment today!
Brian Feeney, DMD
1430 Spring Hill Road, Suite 101
McLean, VA 22102