Heart Disease and Dentures

Heart MonthSeptember is Heart Month, the perfect time for denture wearers to gain awareness of how your oral health affects your risk for heart disease.

New scientific research shows a link between periodontal or gum disease and heart disease.  But by taking a little time each day, even if it means, at the very least rinsing your denture with soap and water when you go to the bathroom, you can help minimise the risks of heart disease.

First, how do you get periodontal disease? We hear the words on toothpaste commercials all the time… plaque, tarter (calculus), gingivitis etc… but what do they really mean?  It all starts when plaque and calculus accumulate at the gum line. Bacteria in the plaque lead to gingivitis, which is a gum infection. So essentially, gingivitis is an early state of periodontal disease.  The gums may become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the tissue and bone that holds your teeth in place. And that’s how you can lose your teeth. Even if you have already lost all your teeth, bacteria and tarter still accumulate on your gums and denture, which increases your risk for heart disease.

Bad breath is the first sign that harmful bacteria has started to accumulate.  If there is lots of bacteria, plaque and calculus, you could be at risk for heart disease.  If you already have a heart condition and you have bad breath and you have build-up on your teeth or denture, then it’s a triple whammy!

It is important to know that heart medications can affect denture wearers in various ways. Many medications used to treat high blood pressure are also frequently associated with decreased salivation and dry mouth. Saliva helps to hold the denture in place with suction and it also helps neutralize plaque. Dry mouth leaves you more susceptible to tooth decay and periodontal disease. Artificial saliva can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. Heart disease medications can cause fluid retention that will cause tissue swelling, including the tissues in the mouth.  This affects the fit of the denture.  Informing your dental prosthetist (DP) that you are taking these and other medications can help to ensure that your impressions will be accurate and not compromised because of fluid retention.

Many DPs now ask their patients to complete a detailed medical history chart. It is important to advise your DP of any medical conditions, including heart disease. In doing so, you will help to ensure that you will receive the best and most complete denture care.

Visit your dentist or DP annually to check for early signs of periodontal disease.  Both natural teeth and dentures need to be professionally cleaned once or twice per year. A DP will clean you denture or partial with an ultrasonic cleaner, professional strength products and polish out those tiny scratches so that bacteria has a more difficult time attaching to the denture.  However, all it takes is a little time each day to help prevent bacterial build-up.  After each meal, just give your teeth a quick rinse with soap and water.  (That sounds easy enough) Each morning and night, brush your denture with a soft toothbrush with either denture paste or just plain soap.  Do NOT use toothpaste. It is too abrasive and causes tiny scratches that help the bacteria stick to the denture.

Does wearing your boots to bed seem ridiculous?  Well, so is wearing your dentures to bed. All types of dentures should be removed at night to prevent the build-up of bacteria and calculus.  Soak the denture overnight in denture cleaner and water.

If your dentures fit poorly or are in need of repair, or if you limit your food to soft and easy to chew choices, you may not be eating a well-rounded, healthy diet. Regular visits to your DP can help to ensure that you will be able to eat a wide variety of wholesome, heart-smart foods.

Michael Carson is a registered Dental Prosthetist (DP) at My Denture Place® located at Shop 4/10 Liuzzi St, Hervey Bay. Ph (07) 4124 0800

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