Research has shown the connection between oral health and heart health. People who have poor oral health pose a higher risk of having cardiovascular problems. Studies have linked periodontal disease (gum disease) to numerous health conditions including heart attack and stroke. As the mouth is the primary gateway to bacteria and viruses, oral bacteria can cause harm to blood vessels or cause blood clots because of the toxins that it releases. These toxins resemble proteins found in the artery walls or the bloodstream. Bacteria from the mouth, especially bacteria from gum disease due to bleeding gums, can enter the bloodstream causing it to form fatty plaques around the artery walls, contributing to an environment for heart disease.
What is periodontal (gum) disease?
Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums. People who have severe gum disease experience the breakdown of the gums, teeth, and bones that hold them in place. Sore, swollen gums are the main symptoms of gum disease.
Two main types:
Both gingivitis and periodontitis raise concerns of heart disease as it allows bacteria and other toxins to spread below the gumline.
How is gum disease connected to heart health?
Scientists have proposed theories regarding the connection between oral health and heart health:
- Bacterial build-up and inflammation in the oral cavity can eventually lead to the narrowing and blockage of blood vessels
- The body’s immune system response, inflammation, sets off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain
A recent study has also linked teeth loss (due to poor oral health) to coronary heart disease.
Practicing good oral hygiene can reduce the risk of gum disease. Follow these steps to maintain a healthy mouth:
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks
- Visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations and professional cleanings
Your dentist and hygienist are trained to identify periodontitis and gingivitis so it is important to visit them regularly. It is vital that you maintain good oral health in order to reduce the risk of gum disease and other health conditions. A healthy mouth and a healthy lifestyle can help you keep your beautiful smile.