Healthy teeth, healthy heart: The relation between heart health and oral health

The link between heart health and oral health

Our mouths are a window into the rest of our bodies, which is why it is extremely necessary to make oral health a priority. Many studies have found a link between heart health and oral health. It has been found that microbes from the oral cavity can spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and cause inflammation that can produce damaging effects. Research has suggested that individuals with gum disease have an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Oral health and Endocarditis

Healthy teeth, healthy heart

Infective endocarditis, also known as bacterial endocarditis, is a life-threatening condition in which bacteria travel through the bloodstream and attack the lining of the heart triggering an inflammatory response. Some individuals have a greater risk for developing infective endocarditis, which is often determined by your medical professional. Individuals at risk for infective endocarditis must be very diligent in practicing good oral hygiene habits, as oral bacteria can contribute to this condition. This year in 2021, the American Heart Association (AHA) has revised its guidelines to recommend that only those individuals with underlying cardiac conditions (patient selection criteria listed here) who are at high risk of developing infective endocarditis should take preventive antibiotics before certain dental procedures. This is determined by your healthcare professional following the recommendations of the AHA based on scientific evidence.

Gum disease and heart health

There are many benefits to having good oral health. Several research studies have investigated the potential link between oral health and heart health. Some studies have suggested that oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel via the bloodstream and create an inflammatory response in other parts of the body, including the heart. As a result, this can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Factors that may lead to gum disease

The major cause of gum disease is dental plaque, however, there are many factors that can lead to gum disease, as reported by the American Academy of Periodontology.

  • Age: According to the American Academy of Periodontology, older age is considered a risk factor for periodontal disease, which is a harmful gum infection that can destroy the gums and lead to tooth loss. It is reported that greater than 70% of individuals 65 years and older in the United States have periodontal disease.
  • Tobacco Use: Using tobacco can put you at risk for the development of many health issues, including periodontal disease.
  • Genetics: Some research has suggested that there may be a genetic component associated with gum disease.
  • Stress: Stress is never fun to have, and it can take a significant toll on your health. It has been associated with many health problems including high blood pressure, cancer, and gum disease.
  • Medications: Some medications can impact your oral health, which is why disclosing your medical history to your healthcare professionals is extremely important for the proper management of your care.
  • Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding has been associated with progressing gum disease due to the damaging forces it creates on the teeth and gums.
  • Certain systemic diseases: Since the body is all connected, inflammation within the body from other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis may negatively impact your oral cavity and vice versa.
  • Poor nutrition and obesity: Proper nutrition and diet are key to helping you maintain oral health and overall health. Studies have reported a potential link between poor nutrition, obesity, and gum disease.

Early warning signs of gum disease

Sometimes, the early signs of gum disease can be asymptomatic. However, you may notice the following:

  • Red, inflamed, or tender gums
  • Bleeding upon brushing or flossing
  • Receding gums
  • Mobile teeth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • Oral sores
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way you naturally bite together
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

Keeping your heart healthy with healthy oral habits

Good oral hygiene practices and regular trips to visit your dentist and medical doctor are key to keeping you healthy. Take care of your teeth like your heart depends on it! Be sure you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Daily flossing is also important to help reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If you have a heart condition and also have signs of gum disease, be sure to inform your dental professional.

Our doctors and dental specialists provide a wide range of dental services at our 40+ multi-specialty dental offices across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our dental team is compassionate, and our main goal is to provide you a comfortable, caring dental experience. Book an appointment at your local Gentle Dental today.