Can flossing reduce risk of heart disease?
Most of us have heard the old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But have you heard that flossing may help prevent many common ailments, including heart disease?
It’s true, according to a study in the Journal of Periodontology that confirms what others have stated—people who have periodontal disease are also at greater risk for systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Maybe you’re a bit skeptical. But there is now enough evidence out there to take notice. There are many ways to help prevent heart disease, but practicing good dental hygiene may be among them.
“It’s important for people to understand that good dental hygiene can have a direct and positive impact on their health,” says Dr. Harvey Wigdor, chairman of the Department of Dentistry at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The benefits of brushing and flossing go far beyond just having healthy teeth.”
Currently, there is no definitive proof that periodontal disease actually causes heart disease. But there is proof that the bacteria in the mouth, when released into the bloodstream, can lead to hardening of the arteries, which, in turn, can lead to heart attack and stroke.
One study released by the University of Buffalo showed that periodontal disease allows for increased release of potentially harmful bacteria into the bloodstream, which, in turn, triggers the liver to produce C-reactive proteins. High levels of these proteins have been linked to the inflammatory response common in cardiovascular disease. That’s enough evidence to make anyone floss every day.
How to lower your risk
Now that you know there’s a possibility that taking care of your teeth can help you prevent heart disease, what can you do to make sure your oral health isn’t negatively affecting the rest of your body?
The American Dental Association recommends the following:
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months – sooner if bristles are frayed.
- Floss daily (Learn how to floss properly and find the best way for you.)
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams.
If you already have gum disease or gingivitis, take care of it; it can be reversed with proper treatment and care.