When you take care of your teeth, you're also protecting your heart.
Cardiologists hardly ever look inside their patients’ mouths. But when I treated heart transplant patients at the Medical College of Virginia’s VA hospital in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I always checked their teeth and gums.
We don’t yet know exactly how gum disease affects the heart, but we’re beginning to get a pretty good idea.
First, all people have millions of bacteria living in their mouths. When a person has gum disease, that bacteria can get in the bloodstream through open sores. These bacteria then stick to plaque in coronary arteries, making the narrowing and inflammation even worse.
Another potential link focuses on the body’s inflammatory response. When you have gum disease, your body is in a chronic, inflammatory state, which contributes to the likelihood atherosclerotic plaque will form.
In addition, when your arteries become inflamed, it’s more likely that newly formed, soft plaque will rupture and create a blood clot that blocks an artery completely, leading to a heart attack.
So you must pay attention to your teeth in order to protect your heart! This means brushing your teeth after every meal, flossing daily, and regularly visiting the dentist.