What have your gums got to do with your heart

Did you know that May is National Smile Month? Well, I would recommend smiling all year round but I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about teeth so that you can smile with confidence.

Oral health is a subject I am very passionate about. Why? Because until I was 31 I thought oral health was just about looking after your teeth so they looked pretty. Then I was told I had mouth cancer! What? I didn’t even know that there was such a thing.

So, needless to say, my gob became a focal point in my life. This is when I discovered that your dentist isn’t just checking your teeth when you go for your routine appointments. They are also looking at the health of your gums, tongue and entire oral cavity.

Now I know that nobody enjoys going to the dentist but don’t be hating on them, they are your oral health ally so make sure you see yours every 6 months. My dentists have become my new besties.

I’m sure I don’t need tell you this, but good oral hygiene will preserve that smile for years to come and give you a better chance of not facing the dentist drill but it’s about more than just having the Hollywood smile. Did you know that your mouth holds clues to your general health and that having gum disease could affect your heart? Let me explain.

Research has shown that people who have severe periodontal disease (gum disease) are at greater risk of heart disease as well as lung disease, stroke, ulcers, poor control of diabetes and giving birth prematurely. It’s believed that this is because the bacteria that exist in the pockets between your teeth and gums can get into your bloodstream and the bigger the gaps the more bacteria that can get into your bloodstream.

Gingivitis is an early sign of periodontal disease so if you have red or swollen gums, gums that bleed when you brush, constant bad breath or dry mouth, then you need to up your oral hygiene game to prevent full blown periodontal disease. Also, problems in the mouth can be an indicator of deficiencies or underlying disorders in the body.

Bleeding gums could also be a sign of vitamin C deficiency because this is a nutrient that is responsible for the firmness of connective tissue. However, avoid those effervescent vitamin C tablets that you put in water. They often contain ascorbic acid which is very bad for teeth. Cracks or dryness in the corners of the mouth could be a sign of vitamin B2 deficiency, a reddish, smooth tongue could be a sign of anaemia, and ulcers can be a sign of a zinc deficiency.

Research has shown that people who have severe periodontal disease (gum disease) are at greater risk of heart disease as well as lung disease, stroke, ulcers, poor control of diabetes and giving birth prematurely. It’s believed that this is because the bacteria that exist in the pockets between your teeth and gums can get into your bloodstream and the bigger the gaps the more bacteria that can get into your bloodstream.

When it comes to mouth cancer, if you have sores under the tongue, ulcers that last longer that 2 weeks, red or white patches anywhere in the mouth or persistent toothache or jaw pain go and get it checked by your dentist ASAP, chances are it will be nothing serious but better safe that sorry.

So what can we do to give our teeth and mouth the best chance of being healthy so that we can flash those gnashers for as long as we’re around?

Here are some of my top tips for great oral health:

* Brush as least twice a day with a soft bristle brush that is small enough to reach right to the back of your teeth and use a natural fluoride free toothpaste (fluoride is a toxin but I’ll save that for another post). Don’t press too hard with your toothbrush as that can cause your gums to recede instead use gentle circular motions and make sure you replace your toothbrush every month. Get into the nooks and crannies with floss and/or inter-dental brushes. If you can, invest in an electric toothbrush.

* Visit your dentist and the dental hygienist every 6 months.

* Use a tongue scrapper or your toothbrush to gently remove the build up of bacteria on your tongue. This is great for preventing bad breathe.

* This one goes without saying but cut down on sugar, not just for your teeth but for your overall health. Avoid fruit juices and if you do have them on occasion drink though a straw so that they don’t coat all of your teeth. This goes for fizzy water as well as these are high in phosphates which promote the loss of calcium from the tooth enamel.

* What about lemon water? Well we’ve all heard the benefits of drinking lemon water for our health but again I would say use a straw to avoid corrosion of your tooth enamel.

* If you smoke, stop it! Not only does smoking stain your teeth but it also increases your chances of getting periodontal disease, tooth loss, mouth cancer and it reduces your vitamin C levels.

* Try oil pulling – This is a traditional Ayurvedic practice that involves swilling oil around the mouth. A study evaluated effectiveness of oil pulling with sesame oil on plaque induced gingivitis and it showed a significant reduction in the plaque index of participants. You can also use coconut oil as it has the added benefit of having antimicrobial properties due to the lauric acid in the oil. It’s really simple to do; In the morning before you brush your teeth, swill a tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes and when you’re done spit the oil out into the bin (don’t spit into the sink as the oil could clog up your drain), rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth as normal. It’s best to do this first thing in the morning.

* Make sure your immune system and other defence mechanisms are firing on all cylinders by eating a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruit and by filling the gaps with a high quality, optimal level multivitamin.

* Take a high potency grape seed extract – the flavonoid are extremely effective in reducing inflammation and stabilising collagen structures of the gums.

* Probiotics increase the resistance to bad bacteria and improve conditions of gums and can help with problems such as bad breath. Avoid strong mouth washes as they can’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria and destroy the good stuff too.

* Omega 3 Fatty acids – According to the dental journal Periodontal and Implant Science, omega 3’s are beneficial for preventing periodontitis because the anti-inflammatory effects of the omega 3 can reduce the inflammation of the gums and it can help to prevent the inflammation spreading to other organs such as the heart.

* Liquorice root can help to avoid cavities by reducing plaque and it has an antibacterial effect.

* If you have toothache or gum pain, clove oil can provide some temporary relief. And thyme is a natural antiseptic that can reduce the levels of bad bacteria in the mouth. 

Happy flossing!

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