Woman at the dentist

Did You Know There’s a Link Between Oral Health and Heart Health?

A Clean Mouth Will Do More Than Prevent Cavities

Brushing and flossing the teeth every day has a greater effect on health than just keeping teeth and breath clean. Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease in several studies, suggesting that proper oral hygiene is even more important than previously believed.

Periodontal Disease

Bacteria normally exist in the mouth that can lead to dental plaque if not properly removed through oral hygiene. If plaque remains on the teeth, it can harden into tartar and move into the gums, causing gingivitis to occur. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that is characterized by tender, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Gingivitis can be reversed through dental care. If the condition progresses, however, periodontal disease will occur. In this disease, the pockets of bacteria will cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, destroying the gums, bone, tissue and teeth in the process. Periodontal disease can be painful, cause the loss of teeth and may lead to heart disease.

Cardiovascular Disease and Periodontal Disease

Scientists aren’t sure of the exact reason, but many studies have linked cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease together. Heart disease causes plaque to form along the arteries, blocking the flow of blood and leading to heart attack or stroke.

Some researchers theorize that the two may be linked because both have some of the same risk factors such as tobacco use, diabetes and poor nutrition. Both diseases can lead to inflammation in the body, which may cause the other to form.

Other researchers believe that the two are linked because of bacteria. Bacteria from the infected gums may travel through the bloodstream and attach to blood vessels, increasing the formation of blood clots. These blood clots can decrease the blood flow to the body and may cause a heart attack or stroke to occur.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), there have been cases where the proper diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease has decreased blood pressure levels and improved the overall health in patients.

Disease Prevention

Though the American Heart Association has said that no research studies have shown that treating gum disease will reduce the chance of having a heart attack or stroke, many researchers believe that a diagnosis of gum disease is a warning sign of overall poor health. Quitting smoking, eating healthy, exercising, brushing, flossing and regular dental visits can mean big improvements for the teeth and body.