Celebrate American Heart Month With a Smile
Celebrate American Heart Month With a Smile

Each February, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute celebrates American Heart Month to spread awareness about cardiovascular health. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. Yet, heart disease is largely preventable. That’s why it is essential to learn how to take care of one of the body’s most important organs! But did you know that your oral health can also contribute to your heart health? Read on to find out how our mouths and hearts are connected and how to keep your heart happy.

How are our mouths and hearts connected?

It may seem strange that your oral hygiene habits can impact your risk for heart disease, but it’s true! Our mouths are constantly teeming with bacteria. When you brush and floss, this helps clear away bacteria, preventing dental issues like plaque buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, causes inflammation that has been linked to heart disease. The mouth is also an important entry point to the digestive and respiratory tracts. This means that the same nasty bacteria that can lead to gum disease may travel around the body to blood vessels, which can cause inflammation and damage, at which point issues with the heart may ensue.

How does sleep affect our hearts?

Some patients who mouth breathe or have misaligned bites, poor oral posture, or airway issues may struggle with sleep apnea. When the airway is not clear due to an obstructive mouth position, a patient may experience a dangerous sleep cycle in which their interrupted breathing causes the airway to collapse. When this occurs, the brain partially awakens to reposition the mouth and open the airway. This process may occur upwards of 50 times per hour. When airflow stops, the brain sends stress signals to the body, leading to heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. If you notice that you have a misaligned bite/jaw, mouth breathe, regularly wake up with a dry mouth, experience morning headaches, have difficulty sleeping, or are irritable/have trouble staying awake during the day, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Our holistic dental approach at Bowen Legacy Dental allows us to help patients suffering from sleep apnea and prevent further health repercussions. At every appointment, we are checking airways and screening for potential sleep problems. We offer custom sleep devices that shift the jaw slightly forward during sleep to maintain a clear airway. With the help of a sleep device and treatment for your airway, you can lower your risk of heart problems.

Healthy habits that prevent heart disease and benefit oral health

When it comes to keeping your heart and teeth healthy, there are many easy habits that you can practice every day to keep your body happy!

  1. Oral hygiene: To prevent the dangerous buildup of bacteria that may spread through the body, keep up with a proper oral hygiene routine. Brushing your teeth, flossing, and cleaning your tongue twice daily can help to clear away these pesky bacteria.
  2. Sleep apnea prevention: If you believe you are suffering from sleep apnea, ask Dr. Bowen or Dr. Gehlert about scheduling a sleep consult.
  3. Maintain a healthy diet: A healthy diet helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure and is also better for your teeth. Foods that are oversaturated with sugars, starches, and acids may stick to the teeth and contribute to plaque buildup and wearing of the enamel.
  4. Limit alcohol consumption: Similarly, alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and even heart failure. The acidic and sugar content of alcoholic drinks is damaging to the enamel of the teeth as well.
  5. Stop smoking: Chemicals involved in smoking cigarettes cause the cells that line blood vessels to become inflamed, narrowing the vessels. Smoking can also cause plaque buildup and clots in the arteries leading to the heart, contributing to heart disease and heart attacks. In the mouth, smoking also wreaks havoc. Smoking makes it easier for bacteria to stick to the teeth and gums, causing plaque and tartar buildup that may lead to severe dental issues, like gum disease, oral cancer, and staining.

Here at Bowen Legacy Dental, we want our patients’ health to extend beyond just their mouths. This Healthy Heart Month, make sure you are practicing habits that will keep your mouth and heart happy for a lifetime!

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