At first thought, it’s tough to understand how your oral health is connected to your heart health. However, many factors associated with poor oral health also lead to heart disease. For example, obesity is associated with an increased risk of gum disease and heart disease. Excess body fat can lead to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance linked to both conditions. Having risk factors for one condition increases your risk for the other. Below, Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry experts explore five risk factors affecting oral and heart health.
5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Poor Oral Health
- Diabetes: If you have diabetes, your oral health may decline. High blood glucose levels make it harder for your body to fight off infections, increasing the risk of gum disease and oral sores. Diabetes is also associated with increased risk of heart disease. If you have diabetes, managing your blood glucose levels well through medication, diet and exercise is essential.
- Diet: People who eat diets high in saturated fats, sugar and processed foods are at increased risk of poor oral health and heart disease. First, this diet can lead to cavities and gum decay. High amounts of sugar quickly harm the good bacteria in your mouth responsible for breaking down tartar and plaque. Second, diets high in saturated fat can cause hardening of your arteries, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood throughout your body.
- Smoking: Smoking damages your mouth’s cells and reduces blood flow to the mouth. Without healthy, oxygenated blood, your gums deteriorate and cannot keep your teeth strong and in place. Smoking also increases inflammation, which can harm the blood vessels and make them narrow and stiff, which makes it harder for blood to flow smoothly. Inflammation is a common cause of heart disease and strokes.
- Age: As you age, your body slows down at a cellular level. That can make it difficult for your gums to be strong and healthy. Aging also affects your cardiovascular system. As you age, continue exercising and eating a healthy, balanced diet to help your oral and heart health.
- High Blood Pressure: Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a risk factor for gum disease and heart disease. Elevated blood pressure can damage blood vessels, including those in the gums and the heart. Additionally, medications for high blood pressure can have oral health side effects, such as dry mouth.
It’s important to note that while these risk factors are shared, they do not guarantee that an individual will develop both gum disease and heart disease. However, they emphasize the importance of overall health and lifestyle choices in reducing the risk of these conditions. Below, we provide six essential tips to help you protect your oral and heart health.
6 Ways to Protect Your Oral and Heart Health
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss before bed and avoid sugary drinks and foods that cause cavities and inflammation. Additionally, consider having restorative dental treatments to repair damaged gum and bone tissue in your mouth.
- Adopt a heart-healthy diet. A diet low in saturated fats and processed meats, high in whole grains and full of colorful fruits and vegetables can protect your heart. These foods are also better for your teeth!
- Stay active. Talk to your primary care provider to see what activity level is right for you. Aim for at least 30 minutes daily of moderate to intense activity. Even a simple walk with your dog can improve your heart health!
- Quit smoking. Check with your local health department or health system to see if smoking cessation classes are available. Quitting tobacco products can be challenging, but the benefits are worth it!
- Manage stress. Stress is another risk factor for poor oral and heart health. If you experience chronic stress, you may grind your teeth more and put more pressure on your heart. Manage your stress by visiting a therapist, engaging in relaxing activities like journaling or meditating, and prioritizing taking breaks when needed.
- Attend routine dental and health visits. Your primary care provider and dentist can help you identify new ways to care for yourself. They can also provide routine screenings and catch conditions and problems early, giving you a better shot at living well. Schedule your dental visit with Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry today!