02/07/2011 10:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind for Good Dental Health

We all know that regular visits to our dentist are vital to our oral health. The more often you go, the less likely you are to develop a problem that would require invasive dental procedures.

Well, now there is even more information that backs this up.

According to an article on "Medicare patients who had had a heart attack or stroke over a five-year period were 1.5 times more likely to suffer one of these cardio-vascular events in the four weeks after an invasive dental treatment that they were at any other time."

This statistic may seem startling; however the article goes on to state that the effect is "quite small and brief."

It is definitely understandable why dental visits have decreased as the economy has taken a downturn. When money is tight, spending money at the dentist becomes a lower priority when mortgage and car payments need to be made. However, avoiding invasive dental procedures (such as the removal of teeth) is paramount, not only to your dental health, but to your overall health.

Gum Disease

Take gum disease for example. If you bleed when brushing or flossing your teeth, something is not right. You most likely have gingivitis, a gum disease that often results in red gums that bleed easily. This means that your oral mucosa (the skin of the oral cavity) is open and can be invaded by unhealthy bacteria and viruses. These unwanted critters can get into your bloodstream and can then spread throughout your entire body -- yes that means your brain and your heart. This can cause strokes or heart attacks. The good news is that gingivitis is completely reversible if you catch it before it becomes periodontitis.


It is also important that pregnant women continue to have regular dental visits and maintain healthy oral hygiene. Why is it so important when you're pregnant? The hormonal changes in during pregnancy can change your body's usual response to plaque, thus exaggerating the way your gum tissues react with bacteria in plaque. Did you know that women that have gingivitis when they are pregnant are six times more at risk to having a preterm or low birth-weight baby?

If you do need an invasive procedure, there is still no need for alarm. Even researchers think that dental care is more important than worrying about the risks. MSNBC reported that when it asked researchers which is worse for cardiovascular health -- periodontal disease or the treatment for it -- researchers responded that it was the former.

Have a Routine

This may all seem daunting, but not to worry. The most important thing is to maintain a healthy oral care routine: brush, floss and use an oral mouth rinse two to three times a day. See your dentist on a regular basis and prevent the need for invasive oral procedures. Aside from regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, it is also important to be mindful of the ingredients that are in your toothpaste and mouthwash.

Every day we use thousands of household products, but do we actually know what we are putting on our skin and into our mouths?

Triclosan in Toothpaste

An article published on once again questioned the use of Triclosan in toothpastes and other household antibacterial products.

"The EU's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has warned that triclosan may promote widespread bacterial resistance to antibiotics and has called for further safety studies," the article stated.

The United States Food and Drug Administration is still conducting tests on Triclosan and its side effects, but has, at this time, stated that they do not believe it is hazardous to our health.

Triclosan (a chemical) has been in use since 1972. However, according to Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit group, the chemical has been linked to "a range of adverse health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, bacterial, endocrine disruption and compounded antibiotic resistance."

Triclosan is proven to help with preventing plaque and gum disease. The chemical does have antibacterial and antifungal properties. But is using it worth the potential risks? (Triclosan can also be found in deodorants, dish soap and shaving creams.)

But fear not, there are many oral care products that don't contain Triclosan and are still proven effective in treating and preventing gingivitis and plaque.

Aside from Triclosan, there are other ingredients in oral care products that you might want to avoid.

Check your toothpaste and any mouthwash that you use to make sure it doesn't contain either alcohol or sugar. Toothpaste may also contain an ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate. All three of these can either dry out your mouth or provide proteins to sulfur-producing anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.

So before you brush or use a mouthwash, just double check the ingredients. You can have a healthy smile and fresh breath without potentially risking your health. After all, you're taking care of yourself by brushing, flossing and using an oral rinse regularly. Why would you want to mess that up?