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Mouth Healthy is Heart Healthy! 6 Important Steps You Can Take

A healthy mouth can help you have a healthy heart.

Whether or not you’ve made resolutions for the new year, it’s always a good time to incorporate new mouth-healthy steps into your daily routine. Some of the most basic measures are also the most important, but they require minimal amounts of your time. Best of all, they can do double duty by helping you protect your heart as well as your mouth! Each step below is important—do you know why?

Why should you floss daily for a healthy heart?

It’s only logical that if you clean only a visible surface instead of performing a thorough cleaning, bacteria and dirt will remain. This holds true whether you’re cleaning your teeth, your feet, your vehicle, or a household surface. Bacteria trapped between teeth can multiply and lead to gum disease, which is linked to heart disease and other serious illnesses when it is left untreated. The American Dental Association recommends that you use an interdental cleaner (like dental floss) to clean between your teeth daily. For those who have difficulty using string floss, there are other options such as dental picks, water flossers, and tiny brushes that can fit between teeth. Flossing daily usually takes less than five minutes, but those spending those five minutes each day can add years to your life!

Why should you practice nasal breathing?

When you breathe through your nose (rather than your mouth), your body produces nitric oxide, a substance that helps regulate your cardiovascular system. A plentiful supply of nitric oxide helps dilate your blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily throughout your body and placing less blood pumping demand on your heart. 

Ideally, a healthy individual can breathe comfortably through their nose while their mouth is closed, with the tip of the tongue resting lightly against the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth. However, various dental issues can contribute to an inability to breathe nasally, both in children and in adults. People who primarily mouth-breathe may suffer under-developed jaws, which can lead to dental overcrowding in adulthood.

In many cases, an experienced dentist can treat these issues (in children and also in adults) easily and comfortably, without surgery or invasive measures. If you’re aware that you or a loved one are mouth breathing instead of breathing nasally, don’t allow your health to suffer—consult a dentist and learn about the available treatment options.

Read Dr. Gio’s interview on the importance of nasal breathing.

Why should you stay well-hydrated?

It’s no secret that the excessive sugar and sweeteners found in soda, juices, and energy drinks can lead to dental erosion. Choosing water over sweetened beverages will not only reduce your risk of dental erosion, it will help you stay well-hydrated, helping your heart pump blood with less effort. Dehydration is always risky, and for diabetics, it can be especially dangerous.

So how much water should you drink each day? The most basic advice for adults is to drink eight glasses (64 ounces) each day, but the ideal amount can be different for each person. The Mayo Clinic offers guidelines on healthy water intake for adults, and it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor, too.

Why do you need enough sleep for a healthy mouth?

Good-quality sleep—and getting enough of it!—is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, including that of your mouth. A 2013 study of more than 29,000 adults found an increased risk of gum inflammation for those who slept less than six hours per night. Chronic inflammation of this type can lead to infection and gum disease, which can pave the way for other serious conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Why should you avoid sugar?

A diet that is too high in sugar can lead to tooth decay. In some cases, it may raise your risk of unhealthy weight gain, which could stress your heart. Naturally occurring sugars are found in healthy foods such as milk and fruit, but many packaged foods contain added sugars, which go by various names. Moreover, labels on packaged foods often include confusing descriptions of the included sugar content: What does “less sugar” really mean, anyway? The American Heart Association offers a clear explanation, as well as other important details on sugar consumption.

Why is it important to schedule (and keep!) regular dental appointments?

When you keep your regular dental appointments, you can benefit from preventative screenings for cardio-risky gum disease, as well as other issues such as oral cancer and dental caries (cavities). Making two or three routine visits each year is a wise investment in your overall health, requiring only a small investment of your time—and the benefit to your health could be tremendous.

Is it time for your next dental visit? Schedule your appointment now.