Oral hygiene is the term used for keeping the mouth, teeth and tongue clean in order to prevent disease. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as brushing or scraping your tongue, and paying regular visits to your dentist for a check-up and cleaning.
Oral hygiene will not only help to keep your mouth healthy, but it can also help to change your heart health for the better. Research has shown that certain types of cardiovascular diseases are linked to poor oral hygiene.
Poor Oral Hygiene and Gum Disease
Your mouth is full of bacteria; some are good, and some are bad. The good ones help to digest your food, but the bad ones must be removed from your mouth or else they will multiply and cause your gums to become swollen and irritated. They may bleed when flossing or even when brushing.
There are 2 stages to gum disease and they are gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis only affects the gums, but if not dealt with it can develop into periodontal disease, which affects the gums and the bones which support the teeth. The bones become weak and the teeth may come loose and fall out.
How Oral Hygiene Affects Your Heart
According to one study, periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease by 50 percent. This is because bleeding gums are a doorway for the bacteria to enter into your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream they travel throughout the body where they can cause inflammation which can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits which can clog the arteries. When arteries become clogged it causes heart disease and stroke.
These bacteria can also make their way to the liver, where they cause the liver to produce high levels of proteins which inflame the blood vessels and eventually can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Atherosclerosis is when plaque builds up along the walls of arteries and causes them to become thick, leaving only a narrow passageway for the blood flow. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke and even death. One study showed that poor oral hygiene can cause the carotid artery wall, which is the major artery in the neck, to become thick with plaque build-up. So by practicing good oral hygiene you can eliminate the risks of these dangerous build-ups.
Practicing Good Oral Hygiene
You should brush your teeth for 2 to 3 minutes at least twice each day–in the morning and at night. Your toothbrush should allow you to reach all areas of your mouth. Once you have brushed your teeth, you should also brush your tongue, as well as the roof of your mouth. Investing in an electric toothbrush with oscillating and rotating actions will help you to remove even more debris.
You should also floss at least once a day. This helps you to get rid of food that is stuck between your teeth where your toothbrush cannot get into.
Additionally, you may also want to rinse your mouth with a mouthwash to kill any harmful bacteria that is left, as well as remove any debris.