Maintaining good health involves a complex interplay between various bodily systems. Surprisingly, heart health and the state of your dental hygiene are more intertwined than you may think.
While they may seem worlds apart, research has shown time and time again that there is a significant relationship between the health of your gums, teeth, and the well-being of your cardiovascular system. Understanding this connection not only enhances our approach to oral care but also sheds light on the broader implications for overall health.
Heart health and dental disease
On the surface, heart health and dental disease might not seem to be connected. Yet, the state of your oral health has far-reaching effects.
A research article published in the Internal Medicine Journal states that “Periodontitis (gum disease) is an inflammatory disease of the soft and hard tissues supporting the teeth that is associated with cardiometabolic disease.”
Furthermore, the study indicates that the added risk is because of increased inflammation in the body. If you have gum disease and inflammation in the mouth, it’s likely to indicate that inflammation lies elsewhere in the body. Additionally, bacteria from the mouth can move into the bloodstream and travel to heart valves, which can lead to a cardiac event.
One of the best ways to keep gum disease in check early is to see your dentist regularly. Dentists are able to identify signs of the dental disease and treat it before it becomes more severe.
The connection between dry mouth and heart health
Gum disease isn’t the only dental disease that may increase your risk of developing cardiac problems.
The study suggests that people with dry mouth, often called xerostomia, are at a higher risk of heart problems because “Hyposalivation results in reduced bacterial clearance, thereby contributing indirectly to an increased risk for periodontitis.”
As mentioned above, periodontitis is a strong risk factor for cardiac disease. Therefore, dry mouth and other oral health problems that may lead to gum disease may inadvertently put you at a higher risk of a cardiac event.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support teeth, is an infection caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that forms on the teeth, mainly along the gum line. In its early stages, gum disease can be treated and often reversed. Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause loose teeth, tooth loss, and even bone loss.
To help keep your mouth and heart-healthy, follow these tips to help prevent problems like gum disease:
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Make sure you brush gently beneath the gum line around each tooth.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Eat a healthy diet and don’t use tobacco. If you smoke, quit. Your dentist may be able to help you stop.
For more on maintaining your oral health, check out “Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Insurance?”.
*Updated February 2024