There are so many excellent reasons to care for our teeth and gums. Beautiful smiles and avoiding tooth pain come to mind. But did you know taking care of your oral health also helps your heart health? Research increasingly shows connections between oral and systemic health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can protect your heart.
What Is The Link Between Oral Health and Cardiovascular Health?
Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the US and worldwide. Along with keeping your body healthy, keeping your teeth and gums healthy will help reduce your risk of heart disease. A 2016 study showed that patients with untreated tooth infections are nearly three times more likely to have cardiovascular problems, including Coronary Artery Disease. Another study of heart attack patients showed that 50 percent had infected teeth. Gum disease, abscessed teeth and failed root canals can all produce pathogens that can cause inflammation of the arteries. Some scientists now recommend that a dentist evaluate all patients who have had a heart attack or stroke.
How Do Oral Infections Cause Heart Problems?
While we aren’t sure of the direct cause-and-effect relationship between tooth and gum infections and cardiovascular disease, bacteria from the oral infection can move into your bloodstream. These bacteria can cause inflammation of the heart vessels, infection of heart valves and hardening of the arteries. According to a 2022 report from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found oral bacteria in the fatty deposits of people with plaque buildup in their arteries. Those fatty deposits can restrict or clog arteries, causing a heart attack or stroke. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, an oral infection can make it worse. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes or other chronic conditions, oral infections can also increase your risk.
How Do Risk Factors and Prevention Overlap?
Gum disease and heart disease share several risk factors, including age, diabetes, smoking/tobacco use and alcohol use. The good news is that the steps you take to prevent gum disease can also help you prevent heart disease. Here are some steps you can take for better oral and overall health:
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid tobacco products.
- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption.
- See your primary care provider yearly for routine testing and bloodwork.
- Take good care of your teeth and gums and see your family dentist regularly.
How Can My Family Dentist Help Me Stay Heart Healthy?
Oral care is not just about maintaining a pretty smile. The World Heart Federation confirms that good oral hygiene and keeping up with preventive dental care support cardiovascular health. Just as your primary care provider plays an essential role in heart health, your family dentist also plays a significant role. At Greenhill Family Dental Care, our “whole patient” approach to dentistry keeps us mindful of the profound connection between oral and overall health. First: prevent gum disease and other oral infections by keeping up with routine visits. Routine care helps your dentist catch potential problems early. If you do have gum disease or tooth pain, talk with your dentist about treatment options. It’s not just about your teeth: it’s also about your overall health and quality of life.