Looking After Your Teeth Can Keep Your Heart Healthy

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  Posted by: Dental Design      27th February 2022

More research is needed to prove whether a condition such as gingival disease can be the cause of heart disease.[i] There is still no consensus on this debate but, in recent years, studies have confirmed a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular problems.

How could they be linked?

Although the link between gingivitis and heart disease is still heavily discussed, there is some correlation between the two. Bacteria known as streptococcus sanguis, that infects the gums, causing gingivitis, can travel to the blood vessels in the body.[ii] If this happens, the bacteria could possibly cause palettes to clump together and result in blockages.[iii] The result of this inflammation and damage can present as blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. It’s also stated that rather than the bacteria being the cause of the heart problems, the body’s immune response could be what sets off the vascular damage. Another factor can be smoking, as this and similar bad habits put people at risk for gingivitis and heart disease separately.

National Heart Month

Every February is National Heart Month and charities such as Heart Research UK work to raise awareness about heart health and the need for research. People from all walks of life have shared their survival stories and thank research for saving them. Paul O’Grady, a celebrated TV presenter, comedian, and actor comes from a family affected by heart conditions. However, thanks to research already carried out people like Paul have suffered far less than previous generations.

There is, however, still a long way to go. Although link between gingivitis and heart disease need more research, raising awareness is still very important especially as donations made through awareness events will ultimately fund research.

Preventing Gingival Disease

Every clinician hopes for patients who care about their oral health just as much as the profession does. However, this is not always the case. A study looking at the dental habits of people with diabetes (a risk factor for gingivitis) revealed that 29% of respondents had not been for a checkup in the last twelve months.[iv] This implies that patients who are at risk of developing gingivitis may not understand the importance of good oral health. Overall, patients need more education and should understand how bad oral health could affect the heart too.

Educating patients can be challenging as a lot of advice will be shared within an appointment – but patients have to attend for this to be effective. However, there are some strategies that can be put in place to minimise the number of patients who don’t show up or book regular appointments.[v] Having a cancellation policy is a good place to start. As well as this, being aware of the needs of your patients can be useful. For older patients, who are likely to forget, it could be a good idea to schedule their appointment in the afternoon and have reception perform a reminder call in the morning, or the day prior. This will give them time to move things around if they have forgotten. Further to this, when patients are in practice engaging them in a treatment plan can foster great attendance results. Taking the time to educate a patient about what/why, praising them where you can, and having an open and positive discord with them is likely to engage them in their treatment and therefore attendance should increase.

Another way to impact the oral health of your patients positively is through the products you recommend to them. A survey revealed that 72% of 25-34-year-olds do not floss their teeth on a typical day[vi] which is, of course, quite concerning. As well as this, a study revealed that people hate flossing so much that they lie about it to their dentist.[vii] The results showed that 27% of people lie about the amount they floss and 46% of people would rather do something unpleasant than floss their teeth. Presumably, people avoid flossing because it can be time consuming. However, flossing has been made much more convenient with the Waterpik® Water Flosser. The product is simple to use as patients only need to point the tip between their teeth and along the gum line – the flosser does all the work! As well as this, it only takes one minute to complete and the Waterpik® Water Flosser removes plaque and debris with up to 50% more effectiveness than string floss.[viii]

Overall, the oral hygiene habits of patients are always going to be difficult for clinicians to improve. However, raising awareness and educating people on the importance of a good oral care routine can have a positive impact. Patients should also be made aware of how their heart health can suffer due to a bad oral care routine.

Anne Symons is  a Dental Hygienist currently working in a Specialist  Periodontal/implant practice and also a busy NHS surgery. She has previously worked in a Max Fax unit, and also taught Oral Health  care to staff in Nursing and Residential  homes. Anne is also a Professional Educator for Waterpik.

 

For more information on Waterpik® products please visit www.waterpik.co.uk. Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

 

Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional Waterpik® Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free Waterpik® Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at www.waterpik.co.uk/professional/lunch-learn/.

 

[i] Doheny, Kathleen. “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart?” WebMD, WebMD, 25 Sept. 2009, www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/healthy-teeth-healthy-heart. Accessed 10 Nov. 2021.

[ii] Harvard Health Publishing. “Gum Disease and the Connection to Heart Disease – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 13 Apr. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease. Accessed 10 Nov. 2021.

[iii] Li, X, et al. “Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, vol. 13, no. 4, 2000, pp. 547–58, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88948/, 10.1128/cmr.13.4.547-558.2000.

[iv] Gum Health Awareness Day Report on Survey of Awareness and Experiences of Gum Disease in Diabetes. 2017.

[v] Vedan, Theesan. “Missed Appointments and How to Minimise No-Shows.” Www.dentalprotection.org, 14 Nov. 2018, www.dentalprotection.org/uk/articles/missed-appointments-and-how-to-minimise-no-shows. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

[vi] “Teeth Flossing Likelihood in Great Britain by Age 2017.” Statista, Oct. 2017, www.statista.com/statistics/778872/teeth-flossing-likelihood-great-britain-by-age/. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

[vii] Sagon, Candy. “We Dislike Flossing so Much, We Lie about It.” Blogs, 26 June 2015, blog.aarp.org/bulletin-today/we-dislike-flossing-so-much-we-lie-about-it. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

[viii] Barnes CM, et al. J Clin Dent, 2005; 16(3): 71-77. Study conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Dentistry, Lincoln, Nebraska.


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