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We often take our teeth for granted despite our smile being so important to our self-image and one of the first things people see.

But the consequences of inadequate oral care don’t just mean you might get a cavity or have a need for teeth-whitening. It could mean problems below the surface, namely increased risks for heart disease, stroke or health complications caused by severe infections.

Not taking care of your teeth and gums can lead to gingivitis, periodontal disease or other gum diseases where bacteria forms and builds up, causing inflammation or infection1. 

Several studies have linked periodontal disease with heart disease because the build-up of bacteria in your mouth can then spread elsewhere in the body and cause real harm, mostly to your heart and the blood vessels which make up your cardiovascular system. 

One study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2018 showed that brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes could lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

According to the study, those who brushed less than twice a day were up to three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. 

In two other studies presented in 2020, bacterial infections caused by gum disease were linked to a higher rate of strokes due to the hardening of blood vessels and large arteries in the brain. Patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of the brain. Also, people with gingivitis were two times as likely to have severely narrowed brain arteries from plaque buildup.

Finally, a Finnish study in 2019 showed that bacteria commonly seen in the mouth was found in the brains of people who have had a stroke, indicating a potential link between bacterial infections and cardiovascular disease.

And your heart is not the only body part at risk with poor oral health. The bacteria formed in the mouth can travel to the lungs and cause pneumonia5, or lead to increased osteoporosis in older adults. 

For those with diabetes, cancer or HIV, who are already at high risk for infection, gum disease can lead to further complications.

So do your teeth – and your heart – a favor: brush your teeth twice a day, get a dental check-up every six months, and avoid smoking and unhealthy foods. 

Because a clean smile can also equal a healthy heart.

According to the American Heart Association brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes could lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

For more great mouth-body connection information, we introduce the inaugural issue of Generations of Smiles, a Smile Generation digital magazine that is dedicated to the education of oral health and how it impacts our overall health.  Read the first issue here:

Generations of Smiles Issue 01 Cover