Your Heart Is Affected By Your Mouth’s Health
Good oral hygiene is not just about keeping your teeth white as pearls and avoiding bad breaths or expensive procedures in the dentist’s office. What goes on in your mouth has a major impact on your overall health and well being. Often it is hard for us to understand how our teeth can be related to anything that is away from our mouth such as our kidneys, lungs and as today’s article discovers – our heart. Although we are frequently told that oral health plays a role in heart function and risk of cardiovascular diseases, somehow we don’t take those claims seriously. Is there any truth in them? Will you improve your chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease if you take really good care of your teeth? Is each floss saving your life? Let’s find out.
Does oral health play a role in cardiovascular disease risk?
Dental hygiene and good oral health are more important for your heart function that you think. The journal PLoS One published a study whose primary objective was to explore the perception of patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) towards oral health. Findings revealed that many patients with CVD have dental problems, but they lack awareness of the importance of oral health and its potential influence on cardiovascular outcomes. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that cardiac care providers don’t provide enough information on this subject either[i]. Nor the dentists do such thing on their end. Most commonly, the lack of education and information on the topic is what creates issues such as this one. And this is where the cardiac care providers and dentists all around the world need to step in and share their knowledge on such controversial topic.
Have you heard about periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis? A growing body of evidence confirms that periodontal disease, a common gum disease, is strongly associated with coronary heart disease (CHD). Periodontal disease has been also associated with a higher risk of diabetes and even stroke. It was shown that periodontal disease has major physiological effects which tend to be similar or antagonize the pathogenesis of CHD. Important effects that play a role in both conditions are heightened inflammation, increased coagulation, and insulin resistance. More research is needed to elucidate the link between periodontal disease and CHD[ii]. What we do know is that although the numbers of CHD cases have reduced gradually in the past few years, CHD is still considered to cause one-third of all deaths in people older than 35 years of age. And these numbers are expected to grow if we do not do whatever it takes to prevent such a life-threatening condition. But what we have until now it is more than enough to convince us to do whatever is in our power to prevent such a threatening disease as periodontitis is. As we mentioned earlier, when you are taking your chances against periodontitis, you are also at the risk of getting diagnosed with diabetes, arthritis, and even suffer a stroke one day.
Scientists from Finland carried out an interesting study which revealed that an infection of the root tip of a tooth increases the risk of coronary artery disease, even when the infection itself doesn’t induce any symptoms. Coronary artery disease is one of the biggest causes for mortality and morbidity on a global level, making this an issue that needs to be solved as soon as possible. The acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more prevalent among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment compared to their counterparts who don’t have this problem[iii]. So if taking a good care of your dental health is what is supposed to reduce your risk of a coronary artery disease than that is the way to do it!
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How does oral health influence heart health?
As you can see, your oral health matters a lot for heart function. Dental health problems increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and you’re probably wondering why that happens. It all comes down to the bacteria. After all, billions of bacteria are found in your mouth and they are important for the health of your teeth and gums, but they could impact heart health. For instance, in people with periodontal disease chewing and tooth brushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. So not only does this bacteria cause tooth decay and eventual destruction of the tooth bone, it goes as far as increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Some bacteria associated with periodontitis are found in atherosclerotic plaque in heart arteries and elsewhere. The accumulation of plaque can contribute to heart attack. People with a family history of heart attack, high blood pressure, increased body weight, diabetes and high cholesterol should be especially aware of this fact so that they can understand the importance of the need to remove the plaque and bacteria that is gathering up after each meal, day after day when your teeth are not properly cleaned.
It is also important to mention that bacteria from your mouth can affect blood vessels and/or cause clots through the release of toxins that are similar to proteins from artery walls. Your immunity responds to these toxins but harms vessel walls at the same time and it makes clotting easier. Yet another link between oral health and heart health is inflammation[iv], as mentioned above. Periodontitis is nothing but a inflammatory disease that causes destruction of your teeth and gums, causing this inflammation process to spread and affect other tissues and organs. When bacteria from your mouth reaches bloodstream they bind to damaged areas which then become inflamed. This can lead to an infection of the inner lining of the heart and other problems[v]. Plus, the buildup of plaque associated with atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process just like gum disease involves inflammation too.
What to do
- Floss and brush your teeth regularly
- Consume anti-inflammatory diet, preferably the Meditterian diet as the best anti-inflammatory diet that all of your body organs will benefit from
- Avoid junk food and other foods that are bad for both your oral and heart health
- See your dentist regularly
- Don’t ignore periodontal disease, gingivitis, or any other problem affecting your oral health
- Seek help as soon as you notice anything unusual
- Quit smoking
- Avoid bubble gums with added sugars as they will increase the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Keep weight in a healthy range
It is often that we think about our body systems as isolated ones when in fact that is not true. You need to understand that everything in the human body is connected somehow and only that is the way that the human body will function properly at all times. Our today’s article discovers one of those links. Oral health and heart function are connected, as many studies report. The link could be down to inflammation and bacteria. Doctors and dentists should educate their patients about important of oral health and its role in cardiovascular diseases. This is of a vital importance for those of you who have a family history of cardiovascular disease or perhaps a history with a certain cardiovascular disease or issue such as hypertension, arrhythmia, heart attack etc. Learning about these risks and understanding the link is the first step. At the same time, you need to focus on proper dental hygiene and a healthy lifestyle. By doing so, not only will you act to improve your oral and cardiovascular health, you will also act to improve your general physical and mental health in just a matter of time.
[i] Sanchez P, Everett B, Salamonson Y, et al. Oral health and cardiovascular care: Perceptions of people with cardiovascular disease. Aalto-Setala K, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(7):e0181189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181189. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5519046/
[ii] Mathews MJ, Mathews EH, Mathews GE. Oral health and coronary heart disease. BMC Oral Health 2016 Nov;16:122. Doi: 10.1186/s12903-016-0316-7 https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-016-0316-7#Sec13
[iii] Liljestrand JM, Mantyla P, Paju S, et al. Association of endodontic lesions with coronary artery disease. Journal of Dental Research 2016 Nov;95(12):1358-65. Doi: 10.1177/0022034516660509 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022034516660509
[iv] Heart disease and oral health: role of oral bacteria in heart plaque. Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/heart-disease-oral-health
[v] How oral health and heart disease are connected, Colgate https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/heart-disease/how-oral-health-and-heart-disease-are-connected-0115