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Preventing Gum Disease When You’re at Risk for Heart Disease

Gum Disease and Heart Disease continued...

If you don't floss every day, it's time to join the other half. Again, ask your dentist or hygienist for tips. Be gentle -- vigorously sawing at your gums will make things worse. If you have trouble holding the floss correctly, a simple device called a floss holder might help.

Get your teeth cleaned every six months

Regular dental cleanings and checkups are crucial for everybody -- and especially for people at risk of heart disease. Cleanings will keep plaque and tartar under control. If you do wind up developing gum disease, your dentist will catch it early.

Generally, experts recommend dental cleanings twice a year. Some people need them more often. Ask your dentist or hygienist what he or she recommends.

Consider an antiseptic mouthwash

If you have a problem with bacterial build-up in your mouth, your dentist might recommend an antiseptic mouthwash as an insurance policy. Some are available by prescription. However, don't think that swishing some mouthwash is a good alternative to brushing and flossing. It isn't.

Stop smoking

If you don't smoke, great. But if you do, it's time to make an attempt -- or another attempt -- at quitting. You probably know that smoking is bad for your heart. You might not know that smoking is one of the top causes of gum disease; smoking also makes existing gum disease worse. People who smoke are up to seven times more likely to have bone loss in the jaw. Smoking can even prevent treatments for gum disease from working.

Ask about antibiotics before surgery

Some people with serious heart problems need a course of antibiotics before they get any oral surgery -- for gum disease or anything else. Why? It lowers the risk of bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and causing an infection of the heart called endocarditis.

This precaution only applies to people with specific conditions. If you have heart problems and need dental surgery, always ask your dentist -- or cardiologist -- beforehand.

Take care of other medical problems

Heart disease isn't the only condition linked with gum disease. Studies have found that having diabetes increases the risk of developing periodontitis, too. In turn, gum disease seems to worsen blood sugar levels in people with diabetes -- and diabetes can worsen heart disease. Oral health problems have been linked with many conditions, like respiratory disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease.

The health of your gums may be connected not just to your heart, but to your overall health. Focusing on one medical problem while letting others slide won’t work. Good general medical and dental care -- and sticking to the recommendations of your healthcare providers -- can have far-reaching benefits.

Tell your dentist and doctors about all the medicines and supplements you take

WebMD Medical Reference

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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