Here at Dental First Corp, we are doing our part to reduce heart disease in our community. We are on a mission to teach how having good oral health both physically and non-physically just might save your life. The World Health Organization states that “Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers…These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally for the last 15 years.”  We are here to show you that it all starts at the gateway, your mouth. “Watch your mouth”, goes a long way in terms of caring for your heart and here’s why.
Your Oral Health and a Healthy Heart
Your Heart is the most important muscle in your body both physically and non-physically. Did you know that the heart is the first organ to form in an embryo and it does not need the brain or body to tell it to beat?  “The heart is a unique muscle, called cardiac, it is capable of initiating its own electrical activity, and working totally independent of the brain, if it needs to. No other muscle in the body can do this."  The simple fact is many people globally don’t take care of their hearts very well. We all know people who have heart disease. At Dental First Corp, we are working to change those numbers. Since your heart is the most important muscle in your body, we treat and teach you about your oral health and its connection to your heart and systemic health.
Your oral cavity sheds light on many conditions in your body including your heart. So much health information can be obtained from your saliva. Most of us have heard that oral health is systemically linked to:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart disease and strokes
But did you know that it can also affect:
- Headaches and migraines
- Pregnancy difficulties?
Actually, the Academy of General Dentistry states that 90 percent or more of all systemic diseases have signs in the mouth.  But this blog is All About Heart! So let’s see how a healthy mouth can promote a healthy heart.
How do you “Watch Your Mouth” ?
Watching your mouth is caring for the parts of your oral cavity both physically and non-physically. The whole equals the sum of its parts. It takes just a few minutes a day of good oral health care and oral health mindfulness to make a big impact on your heart. Incorporating an oral care routine into our busy schedule takes a little thought and planning. Working together with your oral health team, you can have a healthier mouth and heart.
The Key Players
The key players, your heart and your mouth are interconnected physically and non-physically.
- Left ventricle
- Right ventricle
- Left atrium
- Right atrium at the top.
- Accessory Players: Septum, Blood vessels and Blood.
- Accessory Players: Hard and Soft Palate, Buccal Mucosa, Salivary Glands, and Floor.
The main physical function of your heart is transportation. We like to think of it as “Pump and Flow” (which is a future blog). The heart “Pumps” and the blood “Flows” carrying nutrients, oxygen and hormones throughout our bodies and carries waste products out. The nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestines and are used to fuel, grow and repair the body. It then carries metabolic waste out of the body through the lungs.
Many believe that the non-physical heart holds the essence of who you are. According to Dictionary.com, there are many definitions of heart including: courage, the core, compassion, center of your personality etc. We’ve all heard sayings like: “have heart”, “he died of a broken heart” in your “heart of hearts you know.” This non-physical side of the heart can be affected by oral health also. "The heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex, self-organized information processing center with its own functional “brain” that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences profoundly affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs, and ultimately determine the quality of life.” 
The 3 main physical functions of the Oral Cavity are: Eating, Digestion and Speaking. Can you see where we are going with this? The mouth is the beginning, the Gateway, the opening to our whole Gastrointestinal (GI) system which is the proper name for our digestive tract. The function of the digestive tract is to provide nutrients to the body through the breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients and release of toxic waste. Eating finger licking food is a great perk! We smack our lips for a tasty piece of barbecue.
Eating and Digesting
Lips - Opening, Smile, Kiss
The lips are the opening and hold the power! It lets the food into your mouth. We have the power to open them or close them. How many times have you tried to feed a closed lip child. Ugh! “Over the teeth and pass the gums, look out stomach, here it comes”. The lips open to receive that delicious barbecue. When we are mindful about parting our lips and opening our mouths to eat food that provides our body with nutrition and not just empty calories, we make a real effort in guarding our hearts. It’s easier for our heart to “Pump and Flow” when we allow lots of fruits, veggies and protein enter the gate.
The lips also open up to reveal our smile. Oh how powerful is a Smile! I challenge you to smile right now. Just smile. How do you feel? Research shows that just the act of smiling will increase endorphins (happy hormones) whether you’re really happy or not. It’s contagious. So the song, “Smile when your heart is breaking” and “The whole world smiles with you” has scientific evidence to back it. 
We recognize a sincere smile from a fake smile, a smirk or conniving one. This is why here at Dental First Corp, we create beautiful, sincere smiles for our patients. “We put a Smile on your Face and Music in your Heart.” When people can genuinely smile without covering their mouths with their hand, it increases their self esteem and confidence. We help our patients smile from the inside out.
And don’t forget the kiss. In some cultures, kissing is not the norm; but in the United States, the kiss most often symbolizes love and love heals the heart. Love encourages your body to produce oxytocin, the "feel-good" or "love" hormone. Oxytocin can reduce cardiovascular stress and improve the immune system, which in turn decreases cell death and inflammation.
Next, teeth go to work grinding up your food. You’re eating! The teeth get help from your saliva which has an enzyme called amylase to start breaking down that barbecue sauce (carbohydrates) into sugar. Concentrating on chewing your food slowly and thoroughly allows for better absorption of nutrients and also reduces your calorie intake. Better absorption of nutrients and eating less calories both contribute to having a healthy heart. When you are missing teeth or when teeth have decay, the food grinding process may be compromised. You may actually experience pain. "Although dental caries are largely preventable, they remain the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. Tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years. Dental caries also affects adults, with 9 out of 10 over the age of 20 having some degree of tooth-root decay."  Chewing food thoroughly without pain for better absorption of nutrients is another reason to “Watch your Mouth” to save your heart.
Your strong and masterful tongue helps to push the food onto the teeth then to the back of the mouth to swallow. The bolus of chicken lands in the stomach to be further digested and absorbed as nutrients. The saliva mixes with the food and you’re at the start of digesting. Thanks to the taste buds on the tongue we really enjoy our food. “Eating prompts the brain to release "feel good" hormones, known as endorphins, a new study shows. Researchers found the regulation of these naturally occurring opioids, which can produce a sense of pleasure or euphoria, may help the body know when it's satisfied.” 
Now to the heart of the matter as oral health relates to heart health. Plaque and the gums. “There Are Billions of Bacteria in Your Mouth … and They Begin Colonizing at Birth.”  Most of the bacteria are our friends but a few like Porphyromonas Gingivalis, Streptococus Mutans, and Actinobacillus Actinomycetemcomitans can cause havoc in our teeth and gums. The gums are designed to surround and give protection to the teeth and bone. When gums are healthy they are variation of colors from pink to brown and are smooth. The number one sign of healthy gums is that they do not bleed when you brush or floss.
When we don’t brush and floss our teeth properly, a sticky substance called plaque or bio film attaches to our teeth. It's that yellow stuff, especially on the bottom teeth, and it is filled with bacteria. Our body alerts our immune system to fight the bacteria, increasing blood vessels in the gums which causes bleeding when we brush and floss. The plaque mineralizes and turns into calculus (tartar). Plaque can be brushed off your teeth with a soft toothbrush, but a dental professional and equipment is needed to scrape calculus off your teeth. The gums start pulling away from the teeth producing a pocket. I wish it could be a pocket full of money, but all it holds is germs and bacteria. If the calculus is left to build up, it starts going under the gums and inflammation begins. You now have gingivitis. At your cleaning appointment, he hygienist measures the depth of the pockets and removes the calculus. This is why we recommend that you see the dentist every six months. However, sometime people are scared to go to the dentist or worse just loss their insurance or job. The gums get red, the pockets get deeper and they bleed more. Now the by-products of our immune system start destroying the bone that holds our teeth. It has progressed to periodontitis (gum disease) or as the old folks used to say - pyorrhea. Left untreated, the gums get red and swollen, the teeth start to get loose (they may fall out) and the breath smells really bad.
Holistic practitioners often connect anger with inflammation. Increases in inflammation can have an adverse affect on the heart. "We often think of emotion as a consequence of stress or pain, but our findings suggest that under certain circumstances negative emotion or complex, mixed emotion can function as a stressor itself, and one which can promote inflammation," said Jennifer Graham-Engeland, associate professor of biobehavioral health.  "Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions."  A consistent oral health routine and controlling anger goes a long way in reducing inflammation in the gums.
And now you belch and say, “Wow that was finger licking good”. Speaking is a complex system consisting of a series of events from the lungs expelling air through the vocal cords which vibrate and make sounds. Our oral cavity friends: the teeth, tongue, lips, soft and hard palate and also the nose help to shape those air sounds into words. We need our teeth, tongue, lips and accessory players to say words efficiently and effectively.
Speech is a good segue to connect to the non physical side of “Watch your Mouth!” For a Healthy Heart. Guard your speech and you can guard your heart and the heart of others. Words are powerful and can really impact the heart both positively and negatively. You may remember your mother telling you to “watch your tongue” or you better close your lips. Speaking hurtful words can damage the heart of those around us sometimes for a lifetime. “No one has the right to damage another person’s heart with their words. When words come your way, you have the right to do what you want with those words, including the right to guard and protect your heart”.  Being mindful of our speech, furthers our quest for a healthy heart.
Watch Your Mouth! For a Healthy Heart.
If you didn't already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. You're making an investment in your heart and overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too.
Oral Health Tips for a Healthy Heart
- Brush teeth gently, in a circular motion for 2 minutes twice a day.
- Clean between the teeth every day with floss or inter proximal cleaner.
- Be mindful about eating nutritious food and eating regular portions.
- Brush the tongue once a day.
- Speak kind words to yourself and others.
- Check with your dentist about using Xylitol products.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco and yes that means cannabis too.
- Visit your dentist twice a year.
- Avoid sugary beverages and food.
- Be Happy and Grateful!