My friend confided in me that her husband will never leave her for another woman. Rather, she might lose him to a good Osso Bucco. I’m certain that you’ve heard the old adage, that the stomach is the pathway to a man’s heart but over the last few years there is growing evidence that the true path to the heart is through one’s teeth.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, scientists have been exploring the connections between the mouth and the heart processes. Individuals who experience erosion of the gums and bone that support the teeth (periodontitis) can release bacteria into the bloodstream through chewing and brushing. Some types of periodontitis bacteria have been discovered in atherosclerotic plaque in arteries of the heart. This plaque is one of the things that can lead to a heart attack.
The same oral bacteria might also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls. Our immune system’s response to these toxins can harm vessel walls and make our blood clot more easily. There is also some speculation that oral inflammation ignites inflammation throughout our bodies, including in the arteries, where it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
What are the best methods of preserving our oral health:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day (no surprises here).
- Replace your toothbrush every four months. This maintains the integrity of the brush and keeps harmful bacteria from hanging around.
- Floss daily.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Schedule regular dental checkups. (Find a dentist you really like!)
- Watch for signs and symptoms of oral disease such as receding gums and visit your dentist if you notice any problems.
There are also a few studies indicating that chewing sugar-free gum might contribute to overall dental health. Unfortunately, most of what I’ve uncovered was sponsored by the chewing gum companies and I hesitate to promote it. However, I did find one source that is worth passing along. It speaks of chewing miswak sticks and I’ve read similar information on licorice root and juniper for those who want a very natural oral hygiene.
Looking over the research and thinking of my own family history, I have to side with most of it. My 93 year old grandmother sports a lovely smile while my other relatives who suffered heart issues, really didn’t or if they did, suffice it to say, they were “store bought”. I haven’t taken to chewing miswak sticks but I have placed floss in several places along my path so that I can’t avoid it and I keep an extra toothbrush at the office.