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Wellness Wednesday: the link between oral health and heart health

Posted at 8:22 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 10:22:38-05

IDAHO — February is American Heart Month, and while the focus is on heart health, there's not as much focus on one thing that could help your heart: oral health.

Dr. Ernest Meshack-Hart, Dental Director for Terry Reilly Health Services, says there's a significant link between the two when it comes to your overall health. For heart disease specifically, that link comes in the form of gum disease.

Gum disease is inflammation in the gums that can cause the breakdown of gum tissue, teeth, and bone tissue. Heart disease narrows or blocks heart vessels, which can lead to heart attacks, stroke, or other issues.

Both diseases spread bacteria in the bloodstream, meaning plaque-causing bacteria can eventually reach and cause inflammation near the heart if we aren't properly taking care of our oral health. Studies from both the American Heart Association and American Dental Association, gum disease can increase a person's risk of heart disease by two or three times.

Luckily, there are several ways to lower your risk of heart disease while preventing gum disease. First, consistently practice good dental hygiene like brushing your teeth each morning and night with ADA-approved toothpaste, floss every day, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and visit the dentist every six months.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are still asking patients to attend their regularly-scheduled dental checkups and cleanings. Many dental teams have already been vaccinated and are taking extra safety precautions to be COVID-safe. To learn more about those safety protocols, click here.

At Terry Reilly, masks are required for all staff, doctors, and patients. Staff and doctors will also wear extra protective equipment. Anyone who is feeling under the weather is asked to use telehealth services instead of coming into a clinic or making an appointment.

If you're uninsured or underinsured, Terry Reilly Health Services offers affordable, high-quality healthcare at its clinics statewide. All Terry Reilly centers accept Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans. Patients without any form of insurance can also apply for discounts on many of their health services.

For more on all the services at Terry Reilly, click here.