Ask the dentist: Maximising your gum health helps your heart as well as your mouth
Looking after your gums is important for more than your dental health - it can also help ward off heart disease, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast
BACTERIA, fungi and viruses are continually seeking out entry points by which they can invade the body and the mouth is just the most perfect place with its many different nooks and crannies that they can choose from to mount their invasion.
Microorganisms slip into tiny crevices in the gum and then travel on the blood vessel superhighway to every single organ in the body, more often than not with less than positive outcomes.
The heart does not escape this microorganism onslaught. The chambers of the heart are lined with tissue called endocardium and if an aggressive microorganism embeds itself in the heart lining, an infection called infective endocarditis can set in.
The symptoms often take a person by surprise with fever, chest pain, weakness, chills, rashes, abnormal coloured urine and joint pains rapidly setting in.
If caught early enough it can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics or surgery when necessary but if someone fails to seek medical attention promptly then the disease can be fatal.
It used to be that anyone with a heart issue had to have an antibiotic drink at the start of their dental appointment to prevent infective endocarditis but new research by the American Heart Association has found that it is more important for people (apart from anyone with a serious heart problem) to maintain a really good oral hygiene routine every day to prevent the disease.
An effective home care routine will keep gums in their optimum condition making them much more impenetrable to bacterium, fungus and virus invasion.
When someone has gum disease, the gums are swollen, bleeding and leaky.
The first stepping stone to healthy gums is to see the hygienist so that they can clean all the hard tartar away from around the teeth.
This allows the gums to heal down and hug the teeth tightly, creating more of a seal around the teeth, improving the barrier effect and thus making it harder for microorganisms to enter the body.
Gums respond well to regular home cleaning which is brushing at least twice a day every day - I know, boring, but essential if you want a healthy mouth and body.
Focus on brushing over the gums and not just the teeth for maximum gum health.