You already knew that brushing your teeth benefits your oral health by reducing your risk for cavities and gingivitis. But did you know that you can also reduce your risk of another very common, but very serious illness? Believe it or not, brushing your teeth can reduce your risk of heart disease, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. That is a staggering one in four deaths caused by the same, often preventable illness. We've all heard basic heart disease prevention tips like eating right, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking; but you can now add brushing your teeth to that list, too.
According to Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, NC, an excess of plaque on your teeth can inflame your gums and their supporting bones. This inflammation releases chemicals that literally eat away at your gums and bone structure. This is known as Periodontitis, a severe but treatable gum disease. If not swiftly and adequately controlled, Periodontitis can cause what is known as atherogenesis- a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can develop into heart disease. In fact, people with periodontitis are at almost twice the risk of developing heart disease as people who don't have it.
So just brushing your teeth twice a day means you're good, right? Not so fast, says Simpson "Brushing your teeth two times a day is a great start, but you also need to take care of your gums, too." Simpson also says flossing is another important step in your oral care routine. "Because periodontitis affects the gums, you want to make sure you are keeping plaque and food away from the gum line. The best way to do this in areas you can't reach with your brush is by flossing." Another great way to keep on top of oral health? Regular dental exams. Seeing your dentist every six months can alert your dentist to any changes in your mouth. If you are at risk for gum disease, your dentist can monitor your gums closely and recommend a preventative course of action. If you already have gum disease, you should be under a dentist's care to treat it.