Did you know that protecting your teeth and gums can help you protect your heart?
We know that oral health and overall health are linked. In the last decade, we’ve learned even more about the connections between heart disease and oral infections. The good news is with preventive care and lifestyle practices, you can stay heart-healthy and mouth-healthy.
What’s The Connection Between Oral Health and Vascular Health?
Staying physically fit is an excellent way to stay heart healthy. Caring for your teeth and gums is another way to promote cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, killing around 610,000 Americans yearly. That’s one-quarter of all deaths, according to the CDC. While there are multiple causes and risk factors for heart disease, researchers have explored links between oral infections and heart disease in recent years.
A 2016 Journal of Dental Research study showed that patients with untreated oral infections are three times more likely to have heart disease. A 2011 study showed that adults with missing teeth and gum disease were at significantly higher risk of heart attack. That study also showed that bleeding gums indicated a higher risk of stroke. According to the American Heart Association, good oral hygiene and regular dental care are “the most important ways to reduce the risk of infective endocarditis,” a heart infection caused by oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream and make their way to blood vessels, heart valves or the heart lining. A 2022 report from the University of Pennsylvania found oral bacteria in the fatty deposits of patients with plaque buildup in their arteries.
How Do Oral Infections Cause Heart Problems?
While we haven’t established a direct cause-and-effect relationship between oral infections and cardiovascular disease, we know that bacteria from your mouth can move into your bloodstream. A 2021 article in Harvard Health suggests several potential reasons for the link between oral infections and heart problems:
- The bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontitis travel to blood vessels in other parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage to the blood vessels.
- The body’s immune response to oral bacteria causes inflammation that leads to vascular damage.
- Third-factor risks may contribute to both heart disease and oral health problems. These include tobacco use, lack of access to healthcare and lack of exercise.
- The Heart Disease/Oral Health Link
- Gum disease and heart disease share many risk factors. So while you work to protect your heart health, you can also boost your oral health. And preventive care (on both the medical and dental sides) is essential.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary foods and beverages.
- Get regular exercise.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption.
- Brush and floss regularly.
- Visit your primary care provider for routine testing and bloodwork.
- See your family dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings.
Can My Family Dentist Help Me Stay Heart Healthy?
One thing is clear: your oral health is integrally related to your overall health. We’ve known this for years. Now a wealth of information about the vital role of oral care in cardiovascular health has come to light. Like yearly checkups with your primary care provider, your twice-yearly visits to your family dentist are a must. They allow us to catch problems early, prevent infections and ensure you’re keeping up with excellent oral hygiene. And remember, don’t put off making a dental appointment if you have pain or other symptoms of infection. Early treatment is vital to preventing more extensive problems down the road. At Hall Family Dentistry, our team supports you with routine and acute care. Your oral health and overall well-being are our top priority.