The link between oral health and the heart has been known for a century, but within the last few decades, health professionals have seen the evidence of two specific links between oral health and heart disease. First, if you have gum disease in a moderate or advanced stage, you’re at a greater risk for heart disease than someone with healthy gums. Second, oral health can provide doctors and health care professionals (HCPs) with warning signs for a range of diseases and conditions, including those in the heart.

How does it happen:

There are two factors why HCPs think gum disease is the reason behind heart disease.

  1. They suspect the link between the two diseases is due to the same bacteria. During normal chewing or brushing, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move to other parts of the circulatory system, contributing to cardiovascular disease.
  2. Bacteria that causes gum disease can enter the bloodstream whenever your gums bleed. That type of bacteria is thought to promote fatty plaques that can get into the arteries around your heart, fostering an environment for heart disease.

Who is at Risk?

Patients with chronic gum conditions (such as gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease) have the highest risk for heart disease.

How is oral health linked to heart health?

Oral health and heart disease are connected by the spread of bacteria and other germs from your mouth to other parts of your body through the blood stream. When these bacteria reach the heart, they can attach themselves to any damaged area and cause inflammation.

What other conditions may be linked to oral health?

  • Diabetes: Gum disease appears to happen more to people who have diabetes as they have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control by scaling and root planing, which makes it more difficult for plaque to accumulate along the root surfaces.
  • Endocarditis: Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart and typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from your mouth spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
  • HIV/AIDS: Oral problems like painful mucosal lesions are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Other Conditions:  According to the Mayo clinic other conditions that may be linked to oral heath are eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.

How to maintain a good oral care regime:

The most important thing you can do to avoid gum disease and maintain good oral health including prevention of tooth decay or cavities is:

  • Brush teeth 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

Being proactive about your oral health means you can protect yourself from developing a connection between oral health and heart disease, and keep your smile healthy, clean and beautiful throughout your life.