The link between oral care and heart disease


Despite a recent study that found cholesterol levels amongst adults in America is falling, heart disease is still the USA’s number one killer. Some of the leading risk factors of American’s with heart disease include physical inactivity, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.

Between the years of 1998 and 2008, the rate of death from cardiovascular disease actually fell by just over 30%, yet the disease still remains the leading cause of death in America, with one in every three deaths being the result of a stroke or some other form of heart disease. Whilst the most victims of heart disease are women, it is men who normally develop and die from heart disease at a much younger age.

Spotting the early signs of heart disease is crucial for increasing the chances of survival. Therefore, it is little wonder that the health care profession throughout America urges people to lead a more active and healthier lifestyle. The risk of heart disease is further increased if there is a family history of heart attacks or strokes.

However, aside from some of the more well known contributing factors, mentioned above, there is also increasing evidence to suggest that oral health and heart disease are connected. A number of studies have found that people with advanced levels of gum disease are much more likely to suffer from heart disease than those with normal healthy gums.

Gum disease can increase the risk of heart attacks

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, gum disease is caused by a build of plaque and it is the bacteria in the plaque, which infects the gums and becomes dislodged before and entering the bloodstream. Once it has entered the bloodstream, the bacteria then attaches to blood vessels, which increases the risk of clot formation; this then decreases and restricts the flow of blood to the heart. The decreasing blood flow causes an elevation in blood pressure, which further increases the risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Whilst studies are yet to establish if heart disease and gum disease can cause one another, it is something that patients should consider the next time they think about renewing their health or dental insurance plan. Part of the reason for this link not yet being established is that there are a number of different risk factors that can contribute to both heart and gum disease: poor nutrition, cigarette smoking, diabetes etc.

Oral health warnings about heart disease

With over 90% of all systemic disease’s having some form of oral systems, increased examinations by dentists could help patients, especially those with a history of heart disease, when examining them for any signs of oral pain, inflammation and infection. Symptoms such as chronic bad breath, red or swollen gums and loose teeth are all signs of an oral infection, but it could be the case that there is a far more serious and substantial reason for a patients poor level of oral health.

Taking preventative measures is the best form of medicine

Although the initial study by the Academy of General Dentistry associates heart disease and gum disease, more studies are needed before a relationship between the two conditions can be confirmed. Research is also yet to show that receiving treatment for one of these diseases will contribute to helping control the other. However, it is known that by having regular dental checkups, professional dental treatment and practicing good oral hygiene will lead to an improvement in oral health, which in turn will have a positive effect on a person’s overall health and well being.

As well as regular dental examines, gum disease can be further prevented by the twice daily brushing and flossing of teeth, whilst eating healthily and avoiding cigarettes and tobacco can also play a major role in preventing gum disease. In turn, suffers of heart disease or those who have a family history of heart disease should always practice good oral care by maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Dental practitioners should also be notified if their patient is suffering from heart disease or if they are currently taking any medication related to heart disease. It is also imperative that patients follow the advice given to them by physicians and dentists regarding their health care.