September is Healthy Aging Month, so it’s the perfect time to take charge of your health. While you may know that a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body, the depth to which the mouth-body connection dives is deeper than we could have imagined.
According to the American Heart Association, periodontal (gum) disease is a risk factor for strokes and, not surprisingly, a contributing factor is poor dental hygiene. While the exact mechanism hasn’t been identified, there is one theory that warrants further research:
Poor dental hygiene leads to bacteria overgrowth in your mouth. Bacteria may penetrate through inflamed gums and enter the bloodstream. The foreign bacteria cause inflammation because your body’s natural reaction is to rid the blood of any bacterial agents. Inflammation narrows blood vessels, inhibiting blood flow to the brain and heart.
A recent study from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan followed 100,000 patients over seven years. Only half had their teeth cleaned regularly. Those who had regular dental cleanings had a 24% decreased risk of heart attack and a 13% lower stroke risk compared to those who had no treatment.
Although consideration of other risk factors associated with strokes is important – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and a lack of exercise – this study further illustrates that your dental health plays an important role in your overall health.
A simple dental routine can save your life, so remember to brush twice a day and floss regularly. Don’t skip your bi-annual visits to your dentist and eat plenty of healthy foods.