February is Heart Month so the time is now to think about your heart and how to keep it healthy!

Many people may not know that dental health is directly related to heart health. New information from the American Dental Association and other trusted medical journals have confirmed what we have seen in practice for many years: that a healthy mouth is linked to a healthy heart — and the reverse is true as well. Read more.

How? It all boils down to decreasing inflammation by decreasing plaque. Plaque on your teeth is really a colony of bacteria. These bacteria can get into our bloodstream and lodge on heart valves or other areas, compromising the organ’s function. Bacteria can then reproduce and grow, causing malfunction of the heart valves. Serious consequences may result.

The primary culprits are Staph and Strep bacteria varieties. They both cause heart valve seeding and prosthetic joint failures. Antibiotics are not the cure to treat these bacteria.

Sometimes our patients who have existing heart disease need antibiotic coverage prior to dental visits. So, if you have a pre-existing heart condition, be sure to contact your physician to have this prescription on hand as it needs to be taken at least an hour prior to any dental appointment.

Similarly, patients with artificial joints have a protocol to follow, also physician prescribed, to protect these parts from failure from the bacterial component mentioned above.

What can you do today? Here’s how you can start:

  1. Floss. Studies have shown that people who floss live longer and have fewer health problems than those who do not.
  2. Simple brushing. Dentists recommend a power brush and a full two-minute cycle of brushing, paying attention to all surfaces of the teeth. Brushing the tongue also greatly decreases the bacteria count in the mouth.
  3. Eat less sugary food and drink water. Good hydration keeps oral bacterial counts down – so drinking water is paramount to protecting teeth and other systems. Cutting back on sugary snacks is also important. Bacteria grow with sugar exposure, and more plaque equals more bacteria – and more risk to the heart.

These three simple steps are the gateway to protecting our teeth and our heart.

Learn more about Dental and Oral Health at the UVM Medical Center.

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