For years, scientists have been studying the connections between oral health and overall health. Research has documented strong connections between oral health and other diseases and conditions, like diabetes, respiratory infections, pregnancy and birth complications, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
One connection that’s long been debated has been the link between oral health and heart health. Keep reading to learn more about what the research says.
What Does the Research Say About Oral Health and Heart Health?
Right now, there’s not enough research to say with certainty that poor oral hygiene is causally linked to heart disease. However, many studies suggest there may be a connection. Some studies state that gum disease and tooth loss might increase the risk of developing heart disease. Over the years, scientists have introduced several theories that could determine a direct connection, but the little research that’s been conducted about the links between oral disease and heart disease remains inconclusive.
Scientists have found several possible connections that could prove the link between oral health and heart health.
- Bacteria. Bacterial infections like periodontitis increase the risk of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream and affecting other organs in the body. If bacteria in the bloodstream reaches the heart, it could cause endocarditis, a dangerous infection that develops in the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves.
- Inflammation. Inflammation plays a key role in both heart disease and oral diseases. An oral infection like periodontitis triggers an inflammatory response from the body’s immune system. Scientists have posited that inflammation caused by gum disease could cause blood vessel inflammation and damage in other parts of the body, including the heart. Additionally, some studies have found that oral bacteria in the bloodstream raises the body’s level of c-reactive protein, a primary inflammatory marker in the blood vessels. Inflammatory changes can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and atherosclerosis.
- Common risk factors. Some scientists suggest that the connection between oral health and heart health isn’t a direct link, but that dental and heart conditions share common risk factors. For example, smoking is a primary risk factor for developing gum disease and heart disease. Another possible link is that people who don’t have access to health care do not have the means to receive dental care and treatment or regular medical checkups for heart conditions. And a third possible link is that people who are less concerned with their oral health are also less concerned with overall health, and therefore don’t receive regular care and checkups or practice good habits like healthy eating and exercise.
In conclusion, while practicing good oral health is not a primary way to achieve heart health or prevent heart conditions, there’s a chance it could help lower your risk of heart disease. And furthermore, having good oral health positively impacts your body’s overall health in so many other ways, even without heart benefits. So do your body a favor and brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, floss once a day, limit your consumption of sugars and processed foods, and see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
Do you remember the last dentist appointment you had? If not, it’s time to come in for a full dental exam and cleaning with Dr. Boyettt. At Boyett Family Dentistry, we’ll provide oral care and treatment for the whole family. Call us at 863-294-9200 or reach out online to schedule an appointment.