February is National Heart Month, and to raise awareness, I would like to share a story. Before coming to our office, the wife of one of our patients told him that every time she visited our office, I was wearing a plaid shirt. He mentioned it to me, pointing out that he has only seen me in my usual scrubs. So, for fun, we decided to make sure at his next appointment, everyone in the office would be in a plaid shirt. When he first arrived, he was taken aback to see at every turn another team member in plaid. The entire spectacle warmed his heart. (In fact, the photo can be seen on our Facebook page.)
Why do I tell the story? Simply to prove the point that the way to a man’s heart is not necessarily through his stomach. In reality, there are several links between the heart and the mouth. As research based dentistry evolves, we are beginning to see strong relationships between oral health and cardiac health. Studies have shown dental patients with moderate to advanced gum or periodontal disease are more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, patients suffering with chronic periodontal disease are overall at a higher risk for a heart attack. Some studies suggest that the bacteria found in gum disease can enter the bloodstream resulting in certain heart infections or cause inflammation of blood vessels resulting in blood clots and elevated blood pressure. It has also been noted that oral health can hold clues to overall health and provide warning signs for other systemic conditions including heart disease.
For those already suffering with certain heart conditions, your cardiologist may recommend a strict dental regimen as a matter of prevention. In some instances, taking antibiotics prior to your dental appointment may be necessary for further prevention of bacterial proliferation.
Your heart health is important, as well as your oral health. To disregard either would simply be, well, heartbreaking. Happy smiling!
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