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Did you know that cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death around the world? In fact, cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke—claim more than 17.9 million lives every year, meaning that most of us know someone who has been affected.

But what does that have to do with dental health?

As it turns out, more than you might think.

Several recent studies have shown a strong correlation between this deadly disease and gum health. While a solid, direct cause-and-effect relationship is yet to be proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases risk of heart disease and that it can serve as an early warning sign for heart troubles to come.

According to a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, having gum disease can increase the risk of a first heart attack by 28%. And according to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Other studies have determined a relationship between gum disease and stroke as well.

Meanwhile, a 2016 meta-analysis that pooled studies of more than 7,000 participants found that those with gum disease may be twice as likely to suffer heart attacks compared to people with healthy gums.

However, while researchers agree that there is a strong link between periodontal and cardiovascular disease, not everyone agrees if that relationship is associated or causal. In other words, does gum disease truly cause heart disease, or do the two just often present as a nasty package deal? According to the American Heart Association, it is “still unclear whether one actually causes the other”. What is known is that the two diseases have many of the same risk factors, including smoking, poor nutrition and diabetes.

So how can you lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease? While there may not be a fully foolproof method for warding off these diseases, experts do agree that preventative care and maintaining consistent healthy habits can go a long way toward dodging these conditions.

5 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits

• Brush, floss and rinse daily. To remove bacteria that leads to plaque, brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. And don’t forget to floss and rinse with a good cavity-fighting mouthwash, too!

• Commit to a healthy diet, rich in whole foods, fresh fruits and veggies, and stay away from overly processed, sugary, starchy or sticky foods. And be sure to get plenty of vitamin A and C as well as vitamin K2, which can be helpful in calcium metabolism and can be found in fermented foods such as grass-fed dairy cheese, sauerkraut and natto, a soy superfood. For other foods that promote teeth and gums, check out a previous blog post here.

• Quit smoking and avoid smokeless tobacco. In addition to causing disease in other parts of the body, a tobacco habit can wreak havoc on your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.

• Come in for regular cleanings! As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Come into Gladstone Family Dentistry at least every six months for a dental cleaning and exam, or as often as otherwise advised by our staff. Good oral habits promote whole body health and longevity. Plus, we love seeing your smiling face and helping you be at your best!

(So you know where I got my information. Always feel free to edit anything you feel is incorrect or to add more “expert” facts!)