You may have heard that untreated gum disease may contribute to heart disease. Over the years, medical and dental researchers have researched the connection. If you want to be your healthiest self, it may help to consider why does dental health affect heart disease?
Please remember this article is purely for education and not a substitute for medical and dental care. Since our health and oral health are complex, everyone needs personalized care. About oral health and heart health, numerous studies seem to point to a connection.
Our goal is to help you understand the importance of treating your oral health and well-being as a crucial part of your holistic health plan. While there is still some mystery about the connection between these seemingly unrelated aspects of your health, every aspect of your health is connected. Often the best choices for your heart also happen to be good choices for your oral health and maybe even all aspects of your health.
Harvard Health reports there are currently a few different theories about the connection between heart disease and gum disease.
One is the bacteria that causes damage and inflammation to the gums may also cause damage and inflammation to blood vessels when it gets in the bloodstream.
Another possibility is that gum disease and damage to the heart are not caused by the bacteria but are a result of ongoing inflammation.
The third theory is that gum disease and heart disease share common risk factors but are not directly connected.
A form of heart infection known as endocarditis is also associated with gum disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This infection affects the inner lining of the heart and is caused or made worse by bacteria, including the bacteria associated with gum inflammation and disease. Patients with this condition must be especially consistent with their oral hygiene and may even need to take preventative antibiotics before dental appointments.
Whether heart disease and gum disease are directly connected still requires research. However, the connection appears strong enough that the American Dental Association (ADA) published a 2012 statement acknowledging the two are associated. The American Heart Association (AHA) offers similar guidance. The ADA and AHA urge you to
We bring up the fact that the AHA and ADA offer similar advice about oral hygiene for a reason. Most people wouldn’t expect the American Heart Association to provide guidelines on oral health. They do so because they can’t ignore the possibility that gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease.
You may have noticed the recommendations mirror those that your dentist gives you. The upside is that even if it turns out that the connection between oral and heart health is due to shared risk factors, you still enjoy better health and quality of life if your gums are healthy.
In addition to maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits, there are other things you can do that benefit both your oral health and heart health. If you smoke, vape, or use any other tobacco products, the best thing you can do is quit.
The CDC warns that tobacco use damages the heart and blood vessels. They also warn that tobacco use damages the gums and soft tissues in the mouth. Some even speculate that the correlation between gum and heart disease is especially strong among smokers, according to Harvard Health. Avoiding tobacco is one of the best things you can do for your health. Of course, being a nonsmoker doesn’t mean that nonsmokers can rest on their laurels.
Your diet may also impact both your heart and oral health. Most people are well-aware that diet affects their heart health. The AHA advises everyone to manage their portion sizes, eat plenty of fresh produce, enjoy lean proteins, and moderate amounts of healthy fats like olive oil. They also recommend limiting sugar, especially processed sugar and other simple carbs.
Other than limiting sugar, you may wonder what this has to do with your oral health. Harvard Health notes a few ways that a healthy, balanced diet contributes to good oral health. For example, eating mineral-rich green vegetables may help support healthy teeth and bones since you get enough calcium and other strengthening minerals. Getting enough antioxidants like vitamin C may help with wound healing, including minor wounds to your gums. We understand this can get confusing since some otherwise healthy foods can contribute to tooth decay, like acidic foods, including tomatoes and pineapples. This is why dentists encourage you to brush twice a day and to limit consumption of these foods to meals shortly before you brush your teeth.
The guidelines for eating a balanced diet with limited processed sugar are the same for both oral and heart health. In fact, the CDC has observed a connection between diabetes and poor oral health, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When your blood sugar is frequently too high, there is also a lot of sugar in your saliva to feed the bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease. One study even describes gum disease as a shared risk factor between heart disease and diabetes. Diet, physical activity, weight management, and possibly good oral hygiene are recommended to people who want to reduce their risk for both life-threatening conditions.
Your “routine” oral health appointments are important to your overall health. During this visit, your dentist can identify signs of gum disease or cavities early and treat them before they lead to intense pain and more serious problems. Your professional cleaning removes sticky plaque and hardened tartar that you can’t safely remove at home. Think of it as a deep cleaning and reset. Your gums heal better without plaque, tartar, and bacteria, making it easier for you to maintain your health with daily flossing between your cleanings.
If you live in the Charlotte area and are due for an examination and cleaning, we hope you consider South View Dentistry. Contact us to schedule your appointment.