At the Heart of Oral Health

March 21, 2019

It is well known in the medical/dental community that oral health is linked to overall health. However, most individuals treat their mouths as a separate entity from the rest of their body and ignore the fact that what goes on here has a large correlation to many other health issues. This February we are focusing on the oral link to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease. Periodontal disease affects nearly 50% of individuals with over 70% prevalence in adults age 65 and older. So how are these 2 very common diseases related?

Bacteria can have a negative impact on your heart health.

Let’s start by saying there have been no studies that have PROVEN poor oral health causes heart disease. There are studies however that show a strong correlation between the two, so that’s what we will cover. One of the theories typically written about is that of bacteria. As you may know, our mouths contain a lot of bacteria. We can have anywhere between 100-200 or more different strains of bacteria at any given time. This equates to millions or billions of bacteria living in your oral cavity. Most of these tiny organisms are helpful but a few can be harmful if not managed with good oral care. It is these bacteria that have been found in blood vessels causing inflammation, just as they do in our gums.

Not only do these harmful bacteria cause problems if they end up in your heart and blood vessels, but your body’s natural inflammatory response can also cause damage. Our bodies react with an inflammatory response when we suffer from gingivitis or periodontal disease, this doesn’t just occur in your mouth though. The inflammatory response is a nonspecific reaction to pathogens, damaged cells and/or toxins that takes place throughout your entire body (you can learn more about the damage it causes here). It is this reaction to oral pathogens that “sets off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain.” (Harvard). 

Another correlation between poor oral health and heart disease is smoking. Smoking can be the catalyst for both heart disease and periodontal disease. A 2018 study, analyzed data from a million people who had different cardiovascular events and found that:

 

  1. Accounting for age, a moderate correlation was found between tooth loss and coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease).
  2. After accounting for smoking the correlation largely disappeared.

Our hearts are connected via blood vessels to our entire body.

We could conclude that smoking may very well be a piece of the mouth to heart puzzle, but more studies are needed for a definitive answer.

Our mouths are a small part of our overall anatomy and there are strong correlations that show these two common diseases are linked in some way. Improving your oral health can be beneficial for your heart as well. We are here to help you with all your oral health needs! Whether you need help for tobacco cessation or a discussion on interdental aids, we will tailor a preventive and treatment plan to your specific needs. We strive to stay up to date with the newest research, and will share that with you as more studies are completed on this topic. As always our #1 goal is to help you achieve the healthiest mouth possible, and we thank you for trusting us on your journey to improved oral health!

 

 

References:

Colgate:

https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/heart-disease/how-oral-health-and-heart-disease-are-connected-0115

Mayo Clinic:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/heart-disease-prevention/faq-20057986

Harvard:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805548/

 


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