Caring for your teeth and gums is critical for overall health.

In fact, did you know that proper dental care might lower your risk of heart disease?

“You can’t claim to be healthy if your mouth is not healthy,” says Dr. Benoit Soucy, director of clinical and scientific affairs at the Canadian Dental Association in Ottawa.

When we don’t brush and floss properly, plaque builds up in our mouths. Our gums then become inflamed. “Wherever there is inflammation it does create wear and tear on the whole system,” Soucy told Metro. “When plaque builds up over the years, it could increase your chance of heart disease and other negative health outcomes.”

Research shows that people with gum disease have more of other diseases such as pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular disease and premature births. Signs that you may have gum disease are that your gums bleed easily, are sore to the touch and look as if they are receding.

The early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, is very common, especially as we age. It affects about 53 per cent of adults and as many as 98 per cent of those over age 60, according to a paper prepared by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.

Advanced gum disease is much less common, occurring in approximately seven per cent of young adults and 34 per cent of the elderly.

A glimpse at the international medical literature shows the association between dental health and heart health.

Many medical studies around the world show that oral health tends to reflect heart health, though proof is still lacking that gum disease is a direct cause of cardiovascular disease. Researchers still haven’t found the “smoking gun,” says Soucy.

The Canadian Dental Association recommends the following steps to good oral health:

• See your dentist regularly.

• Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day.

• Floss every day.

• Eat a well-balanced diet, avoiding excess sugar.

• Watch for signs of unhealthy gums such as: bleeding when you brush or floss, red and puffy gums, bad breath that won’t go away, loose or sensitive teeth, receding gums, change in colour of the gums. See your dentist if you are concerned.

• Look for warning signs of oral cancer: bleeding, open sores, white or red patches, numbness or tingling, lumps in your mouth.

• Don’t smoke.

April is oral health month, a reminder that we all need to take better care of our precious ivories.

New and notable

• Throw out the toothpaste? Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are testing a light-activated semiconductor toothbrush that actually releases electrons to break down plaque. Pretty electrifying!

• Go green. We may see green tea in more oral-care products. Some research supports the natural decay-fighting properties of this agent.

• Rinse out and spit to beat oral cancer. Colgate-Palmolive is developing a mouthwash that may suppress cancerous tumours.

– Best Health Magazine

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