What tooth and gum health has to do with your heart

Feb 2, 2012, 6 a.m.

Everyone knows that being in poor dental health isn't the ideal circumstance, especially the older you get. Without a nice strong set of choppers in your mouth, your dietary choices become much slimmer and as a consequence, your waist might become much thicker. But a recent startling study conducted by the American Heart Association is hinting at the reality that people who aren't in good dental health may also soon find themselves in poor heart health .

It's not just that people in poor heart health are less likely to take care of their mouths or do what it takes to keep their dentists smiling. The studies actually suggest that having poor dental health could have an adverse effect on your heart. If this isn't enough to make you race to the bathroom to brush and floss, there's also statistical data to back it up. Here are just a few of the statistics that were revealed recently by a study on tooth and heart health performed by the American Heart Association.

Seniors who experience bleeding gums are at a much greater risk of stroke than people whose gums are perfectly healthy, by a margin of two to one. This means that seniors with healthy gums have half the chance of suffering a stroke, while those with bad gum health are twice as likely to have a stroke.

The odds of a heart attack also increase with incidents of periodontal pockets. This is the condition where gums start to pull away from the teeth, a common result of failing to pay attention to dental health through regular brushing and flossing. Seniors with many periodontal pockets are at 53% greater risk of heart attack than those with only a few.

Losing your teeth can also increase your risk of congestive heart failure, according to the study, which uncovered that seniors who had more teeth were at lower risk. Those with the fewest teeth are said to be twice as likely to develop congestive heart failure than those with the most.

In yet another bit of research that studied the dental habits of Taiwanese seniors, those who went to the dentist for scheduled maintenance on a regular basis were found to be at much lower risk for heart attack, stroke, and the development of heart disease. So what does it all mean? Unfortunately, doctors aren't quite sure. They continue to perform studies and to try to research the possible connections between bad dental health and bad heart health , although at present the immense secret isn't giving any clues.

The fact remains, the connection could be a simple one. Perhaps people who take good care of their teeth are also much more likely to take good care of the rest of their bodies, including their tickers? It doesn't require much of a stretch of the imagination to come to that conclusion. So in the meantime, while the men in white coats in labs continue to do their diligent research, make sure you don't just take good care of your teeth -- make sure you include pursuing steps to good heart health in your daily routine. It might just make an awfully huge difference in the quality and quantity of your life.

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