We’ve intuitively known for centuries that bad teeth signify bad health. It’s only recently, though, that we have identified the scientific connection-inflammation. The theory is that bacteria from dental plaque seep into the bloodstream via inflamed gums. Then they produce enzymes that make blood platelets stickier and more likely to clot, contributing to hardening of the arteries.
The good news is that this is a risk factor you can easily control. Here’s what to do.
Brush Up on Heart Health
Make sure to brush for your teeth thoroughly. Buy a 2-minute bathroom timer and use it, or get an electric toothbrush with a built-in timing mechanism. Use gentle, circular strokes to brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Brush until the timer ends, working on all surfaces of the teeth-front, back and top. Repeat at least twice a day, in the morning and before going to bed-and do it after lunch and dinner, if possible.
Replace your Toothbrush
Most dentists agree that worn-out toothbrushes can’t clean your teeth properly and may actually damage your gums. They advise changing your toothbrush every two to three months because when bristles become splayed, they don’t clean properly.
Don’t Forget to Floss
The Canadian Dental Association estimates that only 30 per cent of Canadians floss daily. To do it properly, you should use about 50 cm of waxed dental floss, wind the majority around your left middle finger and the rest around your right middle finger, leaving a few centimeters in between. Gently maneuver the floss between your teeth and rub it up and down along the sides of each tooth, especially under the gum line.
Mind the Mouthwash
Rinsing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash can help to reduce tooth plaque and gingivitis. Worried about oral cancer from using an alcohol-based mouthwash? You needn’t be. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, as well as the Canadian Dental Association, of all the studies conducted over the years, none have been able to prove that mouthwash causes oral cancer.
Book in Advance
Make appointments with the hygienist for cleanings twice a year, or every three months if you have heart disease. Discuss any drugs you take. Medications like high blood pressure pills, can increase your risk of gum disease.
A dry mouth may encourage dental decay. Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva flow.