Most people consider the mouth and heart to be two separate systems, yet research has shown a connection between them. Specifically, dental health may influence heart health.
The Link Between Dental and Heart Health
Several decades ago, theories regarding a link between heart health and quality of your teeth and gums started to emerge. Research does not always show a defined relationship, but the following issues tend to occur:
- Those with periodontitis or gum disease are more likely to experience heart disease later on in life.
- Poor or negligent dental hygiene can cause a bacterial infection, which then travels through the blood and may eventually affect the heart valves.
- Oral health can be the first sign of another disease related to the heart, including diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.
A 2018 study of close to one million individuals analyzing 65,000 cardiovascular events found that patients who experience tooth loss have a stronger chance of living with coronary heart disease. Yet researchers postulated that smoking, may be the factor linking these two conditions, not specifically dental health.
Research from the Cleveland Clinic further identified a correlation between patients living with gum and heart disease. In fact, those with advanced gum disease may also have an undiagnosed heart issue.
Researchers stated the association may come from the biofilms that develop through poor oral hygiene. The bacterial colonies that emerge can travel through the bloodstream to the heart, resulting in inflammation. This inflammatory reaction can contribute to elevated heart disease and stroke risks.
Another 2018 study assessed toothbrushing habits in 682 subjects. Researchers found that individuals who brushed for under two minutes, less than twice per day had increased heart attack, stroke and heart failure risks.
What Connects Dental and Heart Health?
Bacteria that gathers as a result of gingivitis and periodontitis can travel throughout the body via the blood vessels. In all locations, they have potential to cause inflammation, which can lead to small blood clots and a potential stroke or heart attack later in life.
Inflammation can further lead to certain cardiovascular conditions like endocarditis, an infection affecting the heart’s lining and atherosclerosis, clogged arteries.
Yet, researchers across multiple studies believe that poor heart and dental health may occur in response to lifestyle habits:
- Individuals with decreased access to healthcare are more likely to forego dental care.
- Individuals who are less likely to exercise also treat their teeth poorly.
- Those with optimal oral health prioritize heart health in relation to diet and exercise.
Considering the potential link, you should remain aware of the early and progressive signs of gum disease and seek care accordingly. These include:
- Swollen or sore gums
- Red or bleeding gums
- Signs of infection, including pus and a strong odor
- Gums that have started to pull away from your teeth
- Bad breath that mouthwash cannot fix
- Loose teeth
To learn more about maintaining your oral health, contact our Shelton office today.