The body is incredibly designed – everything is linked. It depends on how you look at it. Is this just another risk factor for heart disease or is this another way to curb heart disease? Ultimately you choose the course of your health.

According to the latest research, if you have gum disease, you are two to three times more likely to suffer from heart disease. Gum disease (periodontitis) is the inflammation of your gums and this can eventually lead to tooth loss. Did you know that according to numerous studies, the number of your teeth is directly linked to better heart health? Crazy right! Early signs of gum disease include swollen, red gums that bleed easily and receding gums.

Often the same risk factors that cause heart disease also cause tooth decay, such as smoking and a poor diet. Consequently, it is not enough to just take care of those pearly whites. It is important to lower risk factors that could be contributing to both of these issues.

Good dental hygiene becomes particularly difficult, as you get older. The medication you take for something completely unrelated may be causing a dry mouth. While this may seem like more of nuisance than a problem, you actually need saliva to clean your teeth between brushing and protect against cavities.

How to take care of your teeth:

1.  Regular flossing (experts recommend daily, but that’s a little unrealistic for someone who never flosses) – try incorporating flossing once a week and increase the frequency. If you find flossing difficult, try interdental brushes instead.

2.  Brush your teeth twice daily, for two minutes at a time.

3.  Are you a teeth grinder? Your partner will probably be able to tell you. Or if you wake up in the morning with a painful jaw, you most likely grind your teeth at night. Make a visit to your friendly periodontist – they will be able to give you specialised gum guards/retainers to help prevent grinding of your teeth.

4.  Here is yet another reason to stop smoking. Not only does smoking increase your risk of heart disease directly, but also increases your risk for gum disease, which we now know is also not good for your heart.

5.  Curb those sugar cravings! Excessive consumption of sugar is a massive risk factor for poor gum health.

6.  If you suffer from a dry mouth, chew on some sugar free gum to stimulate saliva, or visit your dentist to ask about prescription toothpastes or mouth washes to alleviate dryness.

7.  Dental exam every 6 months, or yearly at the very least. Although most of you already know how to practice good dental hygiene, the link between your teeth and your heart, gives you an extra reason to take extra care of your teeth.

By Dr. Jennifer Delport