January 10, 2018

How Dental Health Affects Your Heart

how dental health affects your heart

Deepen your knowledge of the link between oral health and heart health.

In earlier blogs, we’ve seen the ways that oral health affects overall health. In this post, we will look more closely at how dental health affects your heart.

Research proves there are many health risks related to poor oral health. In fact, harm to overall health can follow fast if people ignore their oral health. Diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s are just a few of the health issues that have a proven link.

But is there proof that shows how dental health affects your heart?

How Dental Health Affects Your Heart

Scientists are still working to find the precise means to explain how dental health affects your heart. However, there is little if any doubt that the effects are real.

“It’s hard to prove cause and effect,” says Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD, medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services in Grand Rapids, MI. “However,” he says, “I think the data is pretty strong and there is definitely a link.”

Scott Merritt, DMD, agrees. He’s the founder of Bridgemill Dentistry in Canton, GA. “I absolutely believe there is a strong correlation between oral disease and heart function,” Merritt says.

The Prime Suspect: Plaque

But what is the link between oral health and heart health? Researchers have found that people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease. Therefore, a very strong suspect is dental plaque.

When we eat, tiny food particles stick to our teeth and attract bacteria. Regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups and cleanings help keep our mouths healthy. If we brush and floss daily, the bacteria are less likely to turn into plaque.

However, when plaque forms, it can turn into tartar, which may lead to gum disease. This allows bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream via the gums. Then, the bacteria can stick to fatty plaques in the bloodstream.

Finally, the bacteria can trigger an inflammatory response. This natural response to infection causes blood vessels to swell. In addition, as blood flow reduces due to the swelling, the risk for blood clots increases.

Better Oral Health for Better Heart Health

According to DentistryIQ, there are more than 85 million Americans with some form of cardiovascular disease and more than 200 million American adults with some form of gum disease. Could a focus on better oral health help improve the nation’s heart health?

We think so. It’s an interesting coincidence that the month of February is both Heart Health Month and Gum Disease Awareness Month. What better time to deepen our knowledge of the link between oral health and heart health.

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Read next: How Dark Chocolate Affects Our Oral Health

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