Brush your teeth, for heart’s sake!

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Did you know that brushing your teeth is important for heart health? Or that you need to tell your dentist about your medications in case they need to change your treatment plan?

Strong, healthy teeth aren’t just important so that you don’t walk around with stinky breath (no one wants the nickname fox breath). You may not know the link between dental health and the heart.  Did you know that your teeth and gums can harbour millions of bacteria? If you have poor dental health and gum disease, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart valves, causing inflammation and possibly infection of the valves. This can be a very serious condition requiring hospital treatment including open heart surgery (it is rare so don’t panic!). There is also a link with dental health and heart disease – brushing teeth thoroughly to remove plaque has been shown to possibly help prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing inflammation in the body to levels close to what can be achieved by statins. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/10/19/how-brushing-your-teeth-could-help-prevent-a-heart-attack/

What else do you need to know about your heart and your teeth?

In a separate study, researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland monitored the heart health of 508 patients with an average age of 62; of these, 169 had acute heart problems, and the researchers found a direct correlation between heart problems and tooth and gum infection that hadn’t been treated. Those who had good oral health were far less likely to also have a heart problem, but others whose teeth infections had not been treated had a 2.7 times greater risk of cardiovascular disease.  (https://wddty.com/news/2016/09/teeth-infections-triple-heart-disease-risk.html).

What can I do to keep my teeth healthy?

  • Brush twice daily for 2 minutes each time (sing happy birthday 4 times) – an electric toothbrush cleans more effectively but as long as you’re cleaning twice a day that’s the most important thing!
  • Floss – twice a day is ideal but let’s be honest, no one can keep that up! So aim for once a day and just get into the habit of doing it. Without floss, you aren’t cleaning food and bacteria from between the teeth and you are more likely to get gum disease.
  • Visit the dentist yearly (or every 6 months if you have any issues that need a close eye).
  • See the dental hygienist every 6 months (more often if it’s been more than 2 years since you last went…). They give your teeth a really thorough clean and get to all the hard to reach places.
  • Have a check up if you are due to have any heart surgery. Most dentists no longer give antibiotics as standard pre heart surgery but always check in pre major heart surgery to make sure your teeth are in a healthy state.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and foods – softdrinks, juices, sweets and other sugary foods can significantly contribute to tooth decay. Regular and ‘diet’ soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks and cordials also have high acid levels that can cause tooth erosion. Tooth erosion occurs when acid attacks the teeth to dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel. Regular loss of enamel can lead to cavities and exposure of the inner layers of the tooth that may become sensitive and painful. Prevention of enamel loss is very important for the long term health of your teeth. Each acid attack lasts for around 20 minutes. Every time you take a sip of the drink, the acid damage begins all over again.

What else do I need to tell my dentist?

  • If you are on a blood thinner. This may impact the type of work they can do and/or the timing of it. Each dentist will have their own protocol and they may wish to talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe to go ahead with the procedure if you are on blood thinners. If they need to stop blood thinners before a procedure, they will need to make sure that it is safe to do so. If you are on Warfarin, they will want to know your last INR and what your target range is.

Want to know more about heart health? Here are some options:

  • Join me at my Healthy Hearties Surrey Support Group meeting. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at St Paul’s Church, East Molesey, Surrey.
  • Join my Healthy Hearties Facebook Group to meet others with a heart condition and chat about all things heart
  • Get in touch about joining my personalised 12 Week Overhaul Program – I work with you one-to-one each week over Skype to sort out your health, fitness, energy and more! Feel stronger, healthier and more like the ‘old you’. Get in touch by email now and I can give you some more information: Angela.Hartley@clinicalexercise.co.uk.

Do let me know if you have any questions at all.

Yours in teethy health!

Angela Hartley 

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