Ask the Expert: The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Dear Amy:
I’ve noticed more and more commercials for oral hygiene products making the claim that poor oral care can lead to health problems. They especially seem to be saying it is linked to heart disease.

We have a long history of cardiac illnesses in my family and I’m trying hard to prevent that from happening to me. Can you tell me if these claims are true and, if so, what really constitutes good oral hygiene?

Brad in Central Ohio

Dear Brad:

It is always a good idea to be a little skeptical of products that make big claims. According to the American Heart Association, there is no conclusive evidence that links periodontitis (gum disease) to cardiac illnesses. But periodontitis and heart disease do have some of the same risk factors including smoking, age and diabetes. Many researchers believe these shared risk factors may be the real reason why cardiac disease and oral health problems seem to occur at the same time.

With that said, there still are scientists out there who are convinced a link between the two illnesses exists, and they are working hard to find it. Since it sounds like you are trying to be proactive in avoiding the cardiac illnesses that run in your family, it can’t hurt to make oral hygiene a priority.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once daily.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium either in your daily diet or with the help of supplements.
  • Avoid smoking and smokeless tobacco products since both are bad for your teeth and also increase the risk for oral cancers.
  • If you can’t resist candy, opt for kinds that quickly dissolve in your mouth instead of hard, sugary candies that stay in your mouth longer.
  • Don’t chomp on ice. The cold temperature can cause fractures in your teeth.
  • See your dentist at least once a year or more often if your dentist recommends it.

I hope this information helps, Brad! Thank you for your question.

Amy Dziewintka