How Does Dental Hygiene Affect Your Heart?
Poor dental hygiene can affect more than your dental health; not keeping your mouth clean can actually have a significant impact on your overall health. One study on a significant number of people who have suffered cardiovascular illnesses such as heart disease and strokes showed a high instance of poor oral hygiene among those studied.
Let’s look at how oral and heart health are connected and how you can best look after your teeth and keep yourself generally well.
How Does Dental Hygiene Affect Your Heart?
Keeping your mouth free from bacteria is crucial for the health of your mouth, preventing cavities and tooth loss. However, it can also have a significant impact on your overall health. When you don’t brush your teeth, the bacteria from your food sticks to your teeth, causing a buildup of plaque that eats away at your teeth, causing holes, known as cavities, as well as causing infections in your gums and the dental pulp beneath your teeth.
These infections cause inflammation in your dental pulp as your body is stimulated to produce white blood cells to fight the infections and contain the bacteria, however, when untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your body. Given the location of your mouth, between your brain and your heart and surrounded by some of the body’s largest and most important arteries surround your mouth. This means that bacteria from your mouth can easily spread through your blood vessels to your heart, spreading the infection.
The infection doesn’t necessarily infect your heart, however, the body responding to the infection and travelling bacteria causes blood vessels to inflame, which increases the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.
However, there are a number of other factors that are known to cause both dental issues and cardiovascular problems including heart disease, that need to be ruled out before scientists can confirm that poor dental hygiene causes heart disease. Correlation is not the same as causation, so many more studies need to take place before anything can be certain.
For example, cigarettes greatly increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer, as well as causing dental issues due to the tar and other harmful chemicals that first interact with the mouth through smoking. Furthermore, people living in poverty don’t have as much opportunity to eat healthy balanced diets, exercise regularly and access healthcare, all of which are significant factors in negatively impacting oral health and cardiovascular health.
Can Bad Breath Cause Heart Problems?
Bad breath can be a sign of a larger oral health problem, so given the information we have from the study into the connection between oral and heart health, in some cases bad breath can be a symptom of a dental infection which may lead to heart problems. However, simply having bacteria in your mouth or on your tongue which causes bad breath, also called halitosis, doesn’t necessarily mean you have an oral infection or will suffer from cardiovascular illnesses.
Furthermore, when we are dehydrated, have eaten strong-smelling food or have drunk coffee, our breath can also be unpleasant, yet this is not a sign of a dental infection, nor does it have any link with your heart health.
How to Maintain Good Dental Hygiene
Even though we don’t know for certain if there is a strong link between dental hygiene and heart disease, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look after your teeth. Maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial for your oral health, and your overall physical health, to reduce the chances of infection and inflammation in your body.
The best ways to keep your teeth, gums and tongue healthy are:
- Brush twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash at least once a day
- Visit a dental hygienist at least once every six months
Brushing your teeth removes much of the bacteria and food particles from your teeth, preventing bacteria from spreading and eating away at your teeth causing cavities. Flossing also removes the bacteria from the gaps within your teeth, preventing plaque from building up. Dental plaque is bacteria that hasn’t been removed and forms a sticky substance covering your teeth and causing cavities, so flossing your teeth is essentially to keep your teeth healthy.
Some dental hygienists don’t recommend the use of mouthwash as it makes people’s teeth feel clean and causes them to neglect brushing their teeth. However, when paired with brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth and gargling with mouthwash helps to remove any bacteria from the roof of your mouth, your tongue and the back of your throat, helping to prevent plaque, bad breath, oral infections and even tonsillitis.
How Can a Dental Hygienist Help?
Dental hygienists are not the same as dentists as they can’t perform major dental treatments such as tooth extractions or root canals. However, they do help you to maintain good dental hygiene in a number of ways.
Dental hygienists can:
- Perform check-ups
- Clean plaque from your teeth
- Advise on dental hygiene best practices
Although you should be brushing and flossing your teeth every day, it’s natural for some bacteria to remain in your mouth and plaque to form on some parts of your teeth that are hard to reach – even more so for people with overlapping or cramped teeth. In a dental hygiene appointment, your dental hygienist will scrape the plaque off your teeth, helping them to stay healthy and free from cavities.
While there are excellent options for tooth replacements these days, they do have a shelf life and it’s always better to keep your own teeth. So looking after your teeth and keeping them healthy as long as possible is essential.
If you have healthy teeth and look after them well, you should visit a dental hygienist for a checkup and cleaning once every six months. However, if you have problems with your teeth, such as a thin layer of protective enamel, or have previously had teeth removed, you should visit your dental hygienist once every three months.
Additionally, if you experience any dental pain, break a tooth, or have difficulty swallowing or swelling around your neck, you should visit a dentist or GP as soon as possible.
Is it Better to Visit a Private or NHS Dentist?
You can have checkups, teeth cleaning, extractions and many more dental treatments with both NHS and private dentists, so for standard teeth treatments, there’s no real difference between the two. What’s more, most people in the UK have to pay a fee towards their dental treatment, so, although it’s heavily subsidised, for some procedures, the cost of seeing an NHS or private dentist is much the same.
However, the difference between NHS and private dentists is that NHS dentists cannot perform cosmetic dentistry without a clear medical necessity. Hence, for procedures such as teeth whitening, you have to book an appointment with a private dentist.
With all medical care, the treatment you receive from the dentist should be the same regardless of whether you pay for it or not, however, as the NHS is largely underfunded and medical professionals are overworked, you may find yourself being rushed or unsatisfied with the care you receive from an NHS dentist compared to a private dentist.
Book Your Dental Hygiene Appointment Today!
If you’re looking for a dentist in the Manchester area, look no further than Didsbury Dental Practice! With emergency appointments available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we’re sure to be able to treat your teeth at a time that’s convenient for you.
Don’t waste any more time or risk harm to your teeth; book your appointment with Didsbury Dental Practice today!