February is about more than just Valentine’s Day — it’s Heart Health Month!

While it might look like Cupid went crazy in the aisles of your local drugstore, February is about more than just Valentine’s Day — it’s Heart Health Month

While we celebrate love in all its shapes and forms, February is a great time to take time to understand heart health and how your heart is impacted by other factors influencing your overall health. 

Did you know that your oral health actually impacts your heart? Keep reading to learn more! 

What is Heart Health? 

Your heart is the central part of the circulatory system that pumps blood and oxygen throughout your body. Your heart controls things like blood pressure and heart rate, as well as working with the nervous and endocrine systems to manage other important functions. 

What is Oral Health? 

Oral health refers to how healthy your teeth, gums, tongue, and larger oral-facial system are. This includes functions like smiling, chewing, talking, and more. 

How Does Oral Health Impact Heart Health?

While oral health and heart health may seem like separate topics, the truth is that there is a strong connection between the two systems. 

Poor oral hygiene and gum disease have both been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues. 

Research suggests that the connection between oral health and heart is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria like Streptococcus and Porphyromonas gingivalis can cause gum disease and other oral infections, which in turn lead to further inflammation in the body. Inflammation can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease in the body, for example, the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. 

Gum disease has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke. The bacteria in your mouth can enter your bloodstream through your gums and travel down to your heart. In your heart, bacteria can contribute to the formation of clots that can block blood flow to the brain. This can result in a stroke, which can be life-threatening. 

Other issues associated with the relationship between oral and heart health includes other cardiovascular issues like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and endocarditis. 

Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can also further contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, which can be caused by bacteria from your mouth. 

How Can I Improve My Oral and Heart Health?

Above anything else,  it is important to practice good oral hygiene habits! Having a regular routine of brushing your teeth twice a day with high-quality toothpaste, flossing daily, and using mouthwash can help to significantly reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and prevent gum disease. It is also important to visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

You can also make lifestyle changes to support your health, like quitting smoking, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. 

At the end of the day, the relationship between oral health and heart health is strong and should not be ignored. If you want to take care of your heart, you need to start with a healthy mouth!