How Healthy Teeth Can Protect Your Heart

Get the facts about flossing, oral health and heart disease.

To people flossing their teeth to promote oral health—and prevent gum disease and heart disease.

Updated on March 18, 2024.

Daily flossing can help promote healthy teeth and gums, but did you know that there’s a link between oral health and heart disease, according to research? Daily flossing may do a lot more than protect your teeth. Here's why.

Daily flossing protects your teeth 

Your entire mouth can be affected without daily oral hygiene, including flossing. A soft, sticky bacterial film called plaque begins to accumulate on teeth when they are not flossed, especially below the gum line. Eventually, the acids in this plaque begin to destroy the outer enamel of teeth. Gums may become irritated and bleed. Breath may start to have an unpleasant odor. And after a while, the plaque hardens into crusty yellow or brown deposits—called tartar—that make it even easier for more plaque to build up. Eventually, lack of flossing can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. 

Gum disease and heart health

Research suggests that regular flossing may not only protect your oral health—it may also protect against heart disease and other health concerns. 

  • Flossing may protect your heart. Research has shown a link between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart (cardiovascular) disease. Although researchers are not sure what explains the connection between flossing and heart disease, it may be due to inflammation related to gum disease. That makes flossing important for your health.  
  • Flossing may protect your arteries. Flossing and clogged arteries also may be related. Inflammation contributes to the buildup of cholesterol deposits called plaque inside blood vessels, which can narrow and cause blockages in arteries. Researchers speculate that bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation that can clog arteries. 
  • Flossing may reduce your risk of diabetes and its complications. If you already have certain health concerns, flossing may help protect you from further health complications. For example, gum disease appears to worsen insulin resistance, when cells require more of the hormone insulin to take up sugar from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance can make blood sugar levels rise and lead to type 2 diabetes, which increases your risk for heart disease.

Gum disease and overall health 

More and more research is pointing to ties between oral health and overall health. Studies have shown a strong link between gum disease and other diseases. In addition to regular dentist checkups, daily flossing can remove plaque between teeth and below your gum line. 

Here are some tips to help prevent gum disease, heart disease and other health conditions: 

  • Slide the floss under your gum line and gently curl it around each tooth as you floss. 
  • Floss gently, and continue flossing if your gums bleed. Over time, they may bleed less with regular flossing. 
  • Use fresh floss for each tooth juncture. 
  • If you find it difficult to manipulate floss with your fingers, try dental-floss picks or holders that anchor sections of floss for you in a small, U-shaped plastic device.

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