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Oral health habits for a healthy heart

Oral health habits for a healthy heart

Did you know your daily oral health habits can impact your heart health?

That’s because plaque buildup on teeth can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream, traveling throughout the body to the lungs, heart, and arteries. Maintaining oral hygiene is emerging as a key factor in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

“Oral diseases can significantly impact systemic health, and preventive oral care routines are critical to reducing associated health risks, including cardiovascular conditions,” said Daniel W. Croley, DMD, Chief Dental Officer for Delta Dental. “The mouth can give us signals that something is going on in the rest of the body. It’s important that each of us pay attention to what is going on with our teeth and specifically our gums because red and inflamed gums can heighten the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified cardiovascular disease as the #1 cause of death of all adults globally — killing one person every 33 seconds in the U.S. — claiming more lives than all cancers combined.

High blood pressure (systolic blood pressure of 130mm+), also known as hypertension, is the most common preventable symptom of heart disease. Often, there are no symptoms until a stroke or heart attack.

More than 90% of systemic diseases, including heart disease, have oral health manifestations. This World Health Day, lower your risk of heart disease by following one of six (or all!) of these lifestyle habits:

  1. Closely monitor blood pressure: a critical risk for heart disease. High blood pressure, or hypertension, alters the force of blood against arteries. Gum disease, beyond affecting your smile, heightens heart disease risk, as inflammation is a shared factor in both conditions. Set routine heart screenings and blood pressure exams, which can be done at some dentist offices!
  2. Consistency is key: Follow Delta Dental’s “2-1-2 Rule” to prevent oral bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss at least once every day, and visit your dentist twice annually. Dentists are equipped to identify and reduce risk from certain health conditions, such as cavities and high blood pressure.
  3. Identify concerning cardiovascular symptoms: including any pain or discomfort in the chest, arms, left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back. Discuss these symptoms with a physician immediately to prevent critical heart-related health events, including stroke or cardiac arrest.
  4. Clean up your diet: It could lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods rich in potassium and magnesium may help lower blood pressure, including leafy greens, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and wild salmon. Research has also shown reducing salt intake can reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
  5. Curb tobacco for good: One-in-five smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease. Smoking cigarettes or vaping impacts the entire body, from bad breath to diabetes. Quitting smoking immediately lowers blood pressure, which lowers risk of a heart attack or stroke. After two weeks, circulation and lung function will begin to recover. In three to six smoke-free years, risk of coronary heart disease will decrease by half.
  6. Understand F.A.S.T.: Knowing the warning signs of stroke could be the difference between life and death. Call 911 immediately if you are near someone exhibiting the below symptoms:
    1. F = Face Drooping, ask the person to smile and notice whether one side droops or is numb.
    2. A = Arm Weakness, ask the person to raise both arms, determine if one arm feels weak or numb.
    3. S = Speech Difficulty, including slurred language or trouble speaking. Confusion is common in people experiencing a stroke.
    4. T = Time to Call 911, stroke is a life-threatening emergency, so each minute counts. Be sure to confirm the symptoms and onset timing.

Cardiovascular disease risk is related to the entire body, beginning with the mouth. Recognizing and responding to the wide range of symptoms could save a life. Preventative care is the best medicine for maintaining a healthy smile and heart. For more expert oral health tips, head over to Delta Dental’s Wellness Library.