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When you think about your heart, the first thing that comes to mind might not be your mouth (unless you’re in love and can’t stop kissing, in which case, congratulations :)). But we digress…

The first sign of a heart problem might not be chest pain or circulation problems, but periodontal disease and even the more common gingivitis (bleeding and inflamed gums).

What’s this connection all about? Our oral microbiome, or bacterial balance/makeup, can affect the cardiovascular system through the spread of bacteria from your mouth to other parts of your body through the blood. When some of this dangerous bacteria reaches the heart, it can adhere to a damaged or weakened area of this all-important organ and cause inflammation. This can lead to a condition like endocarditis, an infection on the inner lining of the heart. Other heart-related issues like atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the arteries) and stroke may be connected to this type of inflammation caused by oral bacteria (yuck, right!?). This bacteria can even raise your risk of certain inflammatory markers in the bloodstream, raise your risk of a heart attack, and more. That’s why it’s so important to take the utmost care of your mouth to not only have a bright, clean smile, but in order to protect your cardiovascular health as well.

You might know if you have periodontal disease, but gingivitis and even plaque buildup can go unnoticed. These conditions put you at greater risk of developing gum disease.

How do you know if you have gum disease? Consider warning signs like:

  • Swollen, sore or red gums
  • Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing
  • Pus or signs of infection around the gums or teeth
  • You notice spaces between your gums and teeth
  • You notice a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
  • You can tell some of your teeth are shifting or seem loose

You can protect yourself against gum disease by brushing and flossing regularly (at least twice a day!). We also recommend other oral hygiene practices like oil pulling, tongue scraping, and using a water pik to reach hard-to-reach areas between the teeth. If you can, get dental cleanings and checkups four times a year instead of the standard two. We also recommend natural toothpastes and avoiding chemical-based mouthwashes, which can strip your mouth of beneficial bacteria. You can also use one of our favorite products, Silvercillin, as a mouthwash if you’d like, or a food-grade hydrogen peroxide-essential oil mixture (though this should be used in moderation as it can also change the oral microbiome–ask your dentist for more information). And of course, the foundation of a healthy mouth is a healthy diet.

If you have more questions about how to protect your oral health, let us know–our nutritionists can give you expert advice. Your teeth, gums, and heart (and partner) will thank you!