Do you brush off your dentist when he or she reminds you to floss every day? Is brushing a rushed, once-a-day, event? It turns out you could be hurting more than just your teeth. Here’s why:
Gum Disease Affects Your Heart Health
Over time, poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease like gingivitis. When gingivitis sets in, however, the bacteria from your gums doesn’t stay put in your mouth! As it turns out, that bacteria can release toxins that enter your bloodstream. Those toxins contribute to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. And when fatty plaque narrows your arteries, you may develop Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.) PAD limits the amount of blood flow reaching your legs and feet. It is a painful condition that makes it difficult to exercise or even walk. PAD can also increase your risk of forming blood clots.
How to Recognize Gum Disease
The best way to keep your gums from hurting your arteries is to protect those gums with proper care. Brush your teeth, twice a day, for two minutes at a time. Ideally, you should floss after every meal, but aim for at least once a day, before you go to bed, so food stuck between your teeth doesn’t linger overnight, causing problems.
And, even with a proper dental care routine, it’s important to learn the early warning signs of gum disease. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should see your dentist right away:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- A change in the way your teeth come together when you bite down
Protecting Your Arteries From Gum Disease
If you have a confirmed case of gingivitis, you should take steps to protect your arteries, especially if you’ve been told you’re at risk for heart problems. If you’ve been diagnosed with gingivitis or another gum condition, it’s a good idea to schedule a diagnostic arterial scan to make sure problems in your mouth haven’t spread throughout your body.