Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Your Heart in Your Mouth

"My heart was in my mouth" is an expression I have always loved and a friend of mine used to use it all the time.  At 14 years old she already had a job working in a local bodega, (that's the Brooklyn version of a convenience store only smaller and selling more beer and cigarettes than anything else,) and I thought she was super-sophisticated.  She certainly met a lot of colorful characters and nary a shift went by that something nerve-wracking hadn't happened along the bustling avenue where she worked.

The phrase came to mind the other day as I was reading an article on dental treatment of patients with heart disease.  It is so important that patients with cardiovascular disease inform their dentists and dental hygienists of any changes in their heart health or medications.  Certain procedures, such as valve replacement or stent placement, may require premedication or even delay non-emergency treatment.  Medications for heart disease, ranging from high blood pressure meds to blood thinners also have effects on the mouth such as increased bleeding or dry mouth. Patients who have had strokes may find it difficult to brush or floss due to loss or decrease of function on the affected side of the body and need to adjust their dental home care routine accordingly.

Although people with gum disease do have a higher incidence of heart disease even after accounting for other factors like diabetes or risky health habits like smoking and drinking, no definite cause and effect relationship between the two has been proven.  More research is being done to figure out this relationship and determine if treating gum disease can help to improve heart health in cardiovascular patients or even help to avoid heart problems in the first place.  Until that determination is made, however, it just makes sense to recommend that people with heart disease take excellent care of their teeth and gums.  Tooth decay and gum disease are completely preventable with good daily oral hygiene which reduces inflammation in the mouth as well as the rest of the body.

Brushing at least two times a day for two minutes and flossing every day keeps your mouth healthy, may keep your heart healthy, and will probably keep you from feeling like your heart is in your mouth at your next dental hygiene visit.

This information is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition.  If you have a dental or medical problem or concern PLEASE see your dentist or doctor!  

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