If you visit your dentist regularly, you probably do so to keep your teeth and gums in good condition and prevent oral health problems. However, you may not be away that these appointments can also significantly reduce your risk of life-threatening heart disease.
How Are Oral Health And Heart Health Linked?
The soft tissues in your mouth, such as your gums, tongue, and the pulp inside your teeth, are densely packed with thousands of tiny blood vessels. The blood flowing through these vessels provides the soft tissues with large amounts of oxygen and nutrients, which are necessary to maintain good oral health.
Unfortunately, because there are so many blood vessels in your mouth, it is relatively easy for bacteria and other harmful microbes to enter your bloodstream via your mouth. The bloodstream can carry these microbes to your heart, where they can cause serious, cumulative damage over time. Particularly serious oral infections can also leave you vulnerable to acute heart infections, which may become life-threatening.
If you suffer from gum disease, tooth infections, or dental abscesses, large amounts of dangerous bacteria can be released into your bloodstream and carried towards your heart. The long-term damage caused by these blood infections can significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease.
If you do suffer from any kind of oral infection, your body will generate specialised immune cells to destroy the harmful microbes. Unfortunately, this immune response also increases inflammation wherever the immune cells are released to fight infection. If an infection in your mouth enters your bloodstream, this inflammation can spread across the body, including your heart.
If you have poor oral health, you may develop oral infections on a regular basis, causing your tissues to remain inflamed for long periods. This is known as chronic inflammation, which has been linked to higher rates of heart disease.
How Can Your Dentist Help Prevent Heart Disease?
Maintaining a good oral health regimen that includes brushing and flossing is very effective at preventing oral infections that can put your heart at risk. However, you can also protect against heart disease by visiting your dentist for regular check-ups, deep cleanings, and preventative treatments.
Professional deep cleanings reach parts of your mouth flossing and brushing miss, such as the pockets between your gums and the bases of your teeth. These areas can contain bacteria that may develop into gum disease or other serious infections. Your dentist will also remove hardened plaque deposits (known as tartar or calculus) — these deposits cannot be removed by brushing or flossing and frequently harbour harmful bacteria.
Regular check-ups will also allow your dentist to inspect your mouth for any early warning signs of abscesses or gum disease. Your dentist can provide you with antibiotics and other antibacterial treatments, which will kill the bacteria before they can develop into a full-blown infection and put your heart at risk.
Speak to a dentist to learn more.