Independent Dental Hygienist answers questions about the connection between Oral Health and Heart Health

Lucy Alyea is an Independent Dental Hygienist at Uptown Dental Hygiene. She offers professional dental cleanings as well as assessments and referrals for any oral concerns. Because it’s Heart Month, we asked Lucy some questions about the connection between Oral Health and Heart Health.

  1. What its the connection between heart health and oral health?

Recent research shows there is an association between periodontal disease, (gum disease) and heart disease and stroke.  In the most recent studies, it was found that people with higher levels of bacteria in their mouths tended to have thicker carotid artery walls.  Thicker carotid arteries are an indicator of cardiovascular disease.  Also the response of the body to bacterial infection in the gums produces microorganisms that contribute to plaque build up in the arteries that can lead to a stroke.

  1. What are the top 3 rules to keep your gums and teeth in tip top shape?
  1. Brush your teeth, gums and tongue daily – 2-3 times a day is best, and ALWAYS before bed.
  2.  Floss to remove bacterial plaque from in between your teeth.
  3.  Make healthy food choices!  Fruits and veggies and healthy proteins.
  1. What is the recommended frequency for dental cleanings?

The frequency of professional dental cleanings is individually determined.  If you brush and floss daily, have perfectly straight teeth and never had a filling, then you may need to see a dental hygienist for a professional dental cleaning once a year.

If you’ve had fillings, don’t have excellent oral hygiene habits, don’t have perfectly straight teeth, if you’ve had gum disease before, if you’re pregnant, wear braces, have a health condition such as heart disease or diabetes, or if you tend to build up stain and calculus(tartar) quickly, then you may need to have your teeth cleaned  every 2, 3, 4, 6 or 9 months.

It really depends on the client!

  1.  Does the shape of the toothbrush really matter?

Not really.  The main thing is getting one in your mouth 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time.   It really is a matter of preference.  More importantly the toothbrush should be a soft toothbrush. Yes they wear out more quickly so you will need to replace the brush more often.

The new electric toothbrushes, like Oral B Braun, or the Sonicare by Phillips, are really the best toothbrushes you can use. They take the thinking out of toothbrushing.

  1. Dr. Oz says that our tongues can help clean our teeth.  Is that correct?

Yes Dr. Oz is correct.  The tongue cleans the flat sides of the teeth when speaking and eating just as the cheeks help keep the outside of the teeth clean.  As well, eating crunchy foods, such as carrots, apples and ‘detergent’ foods like nuts and cheese help ‘scrub’ the main surfaces of the teeth.  The in-between surfaces that can be cleaned almost exclusively by floss harbour and hide bacteria that multiplies and produces the toxins that result in gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis.

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