Worried about your heart? Check your mouth!
You already do all the obvious stuff for your cardiovascular health — great diet, daily exercise, and no smoking. But did you know you might be missing a major factor right in front of your face?
Well, it is part of your face. Your mouth, actually. There's a bunch of activity going on in your mouth that could be related to your heart health.
So if you understand that heart health is the leading health issue globally and you want to stay on top of yours, what else can you do?
Focus on your mouth
Beginning in the 1950s, forward-thinking doctors started to recognize the association between oral and systemic health. The relationship is not new – but only recently have we begun to understand how linked the two really are.
The discovery of oral bacteria in plaque in the arteries and brain makes it clear that oral microbes and their refuse do not stay confined to the mouth. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 50% of cardiac events can be linked to oral bacteria.
Just like the gut microbiome, in the mouth (your oral microbiome), microbes matter most!
Oral Microbiome Stats
- Of the 100 billion microbial cells in the body, 20 billion live here
- 700+ species of microbes
- Multiple microbes – bacteria (good and bad guys) fungi, and viruses
- Biofilm (AKA plaque) is involved – biofilms are a particular problem in the mouth!
Biofilms explained. It’s a sticky situation
Biofilm is a sticky cloak used by bacteria and yeast as a form of protection from our immune system, or other factors that harm them. Just like humans, microbes tend to congregate for protection, cooperation, communication – to make life easier.
But that’s a problem for us.
Biofilms in the mouth are more commonly known as plaque. When unhealthy microbes establish themselves, they reseed the mouth over and over. If you don’t address the plaque biofilm, the bugs come back. This is a particular problem in the mouth, where teeth, implants, and appliances provide a non-shedding surface for biofilms to thrive.
Cutting to the Chase: What Works?
Here are fundamental ways to support your oral health according to Arianna Ebrahimian, DDS.
- Disrupt oral biofilms. This is the first step toward a healthy oral microbiome. Regular brushing and flossing, twice-a-year teeth cleaning by a dental hygienist, and the use of natural, plant-based toothpaste and mouthwash are great ways to keep plaque biofilm in check.
- Keep up those great eating habits! In addition to supporting heart health, a healthy diet is one of the biggest influences on the oral microbiome.
- Add specific foods to your diet. Hard foods and foods high in fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K encourage better alveolar bone growth and enamel mineralization.
- Pro tip! Beware of many common over-the-counter hygiene products that contain harsh chemicals that disrupt the delicate oral microbiome.