You’ve heard us say time and again that good oral health is linked to good overall health. Most individuals tend to treat their mouth as a separate entity from the rest of their body. When you ignore the fact that what goes on there has a large correlation to many other health issues, you are putting yourself at risk for disease. This month we’re focusing on the 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?
Let’s start by clarifying that there is no PROVEN study that poor oral health causes heart disease. However, there are studies that show a strong correlation between the two, which is what we will focus on. One theory that is often brought up is the excess amounts of bacteria in your mouth. You may know that your mouth is full of bacteria. More than 100-200+ different types of bacteria in your oral cavity at any given time. This means that there are millions or billions of bacteria living in your mouth! Many are helpful or harmless, but some can cause diseases. It is the disease causing bacteria that have been found in blood vessels causing inflammation, just as they do in our gums
Bacteria in your blood vessels and heart can cause major damage. If not the bacteria itself, our bodies’ natural inflammatory response can damage tissues. When you suffer from gingivitis or periodontal disease, your body reacts with its usual inflammatory response, which is why you may notice bleeding or swelling in your gums. But, this doesn’t only occur in your mouth. It is this reaction to oral pathogens that “sets off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain.” (Harvard). The inflammatory response is a nonspecific reaction to pathogens. It can damage cells and/or toxins that takes place throughout your entire body (you can learn more about the damage it causes here).
One of the major correlations found between poor oral health and heart disease is smoking. Smoking puts you at an extremely high risk for both diseases and may represent the link between the two. A 2018 study, analyzed data from a million people who had different cardiovascular events and found the following:
- Accounting for age, a moderate correlation was found between tooth loss and coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease).
- After accounting for smoking the correlation largely disappeared.
You might say that smoking could be the missing piece of the mouth to heart puzzle. We will wait for more studies to appear before making a definitive answer.
It’s obvious that these two common diseases are linked in some way. Whether you need help for tobacco cessation or a discussion on interdental aids, we will tailor a preventive treatment plan to your specific needs. The best thing you can do is to try your best to improve your oral health, and we are here to help! 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. 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!