Most people think of the mouth and the heart as two completely separate parts of the body. However, our oral health has a deep connection with our overall health — in particular, with our cardiovascular health.
For example, poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease. Research has demonstrated a link between gum disease (also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease) and heart issues. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this connection and what you can do to improve both your oral and your cardiovascular health.
What’s periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a common infection of the gums and the #1 cause of tooth loss in the United States. This condition is caused by bacteria found in plaque. When plaque is not properly removed from your teeth, bacteria can infect your gums and weaken your jawbone, ultimately leading to tooth loss and bone loss.
But periodontal disease can cause even more damage. In advanced cases, the bacteria that cause periodontitis may also get into your bloodstream and affect your heart. Patients with periodontal disease have a high risk for heart disease, especially if it remains undiagnosed and unmanaged for a long time.
The good news is, you can prevent or slow down the progression of periodontal disease by maintaining good dental habits and seeing your dentist for professional cleanings and checkups. Since gum disease is often silent, it’s important you visit your dentist every 6 months, as they can diagnose and treat any signs of gum infection before it progresses into something more serious.
To prevent gum disease you should also:
- Avoid smoking or vaping
- Drink plenty of water each day
- Brush and floss daily
- Use a mouthwash
- Avoid sugary foods
How are heart disease and periodontal disease linked?
If you have gum disease, bacteria can enter your bloodstream, travel through your body, and attach to damaged areas in the heart and blood vessels. They cause inflammation and damage, which can potentially lead to cardiovascular issues, such as endocarditis, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Instead of bacteria itself causing cardiovascular disease, it is our immune response (inflammation) caused by bacteria that can lead to damage throughout our bodies. Bacterial migration into our bloodstream causes an increase in C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker that has been linked to periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease.
How can I take care of my oral health and my cardiovascular health at the same time?
Good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to care for both your oral health and your cardiovascular health. This means visiting your dentist regularly, brushing and flossing every day, avoiding tobacco products, and eating a balanced diet.
Good nutrition (including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins) can help improve both conditions. Also, getting regular exercise will help improve circulation throughout your body and keep your heart healthy.
Other diseases linked to oral health
Research suggests that there is a link between oral health problems like periodontal disease and other serious health conditions. Studies have shown a connection with:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Respiratory disease
- Kidney problems
However, more research is needed to confirm these associations (which may not be causal connections).
Cardiovascular disease and dental health
According to some studies, those who brush less than twice a day for less than 2 minutes are 3 times more at risk of heart disease compared to those who brush at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes.
In contrast, other studies have found no clear relation between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. It is possible that the link between poor oral health and heart disease is due to other factors such as smoking or a poor diet, both of which are associated with gum disease.
While some research supports the idea that cardiovascular disease can be linked to poor oral health, more studies are needed to understand the relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular illnesses. However, regardless of how much science proves or disproves a link between these two, maintaining good oral hygiene is still an important part of overall health.
Do you want to take better care of your health?
If you’re concerned about your cardiovascular health, or if you have a family history of heart disease and want to do everything possible to keep your heart healthy, it’s important to pay attention to your oral health as well. With good hygiene habits and regular dental checkups, you can take steps toward maintaining your whole body in great shape.
At Sedation Dentistry of Sunny Isles, we are here to help you take the best care of your teeth and gums. Contact us online or call us at (786) 629-1503 to schedule your appointment!