Great-looking teeth and good oral hygiene make you prettier, but they can also make you healthier as well. According to some studies, good oral hygiene can positively affect your heart health. The association between healthy teeth and a healthy heart is still subjected to experiments and ongoing studies.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Correlation between gum disease and heart disease is still debated among scientists and there are several theories of the possible link between two diseases. However, doctors do agree about the reasons why gum disease and heart disease are linked. They have common causes and problems like inflammation:
- Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) is linked with inflammation. Atheroma (fatty plaque) in the arteries is the result of inflammation.
- Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and occurs when gums are inflamed by bacteria.
Other common causes of gum disease and heart disease include:
Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to gum disease by having a negative impact on the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. It can be said that smoking changes the function of gum tissue cells which leads to inflammation. On the other hand, smoking can also damage your arteries’ walls. When that happens, blood cells known as platelets will try to repair the damage why clumping together, which leads to narrowing of the arteries. Additionally, smoking reduces the blood’s ability to transfer oxygen across your body.
There is a strong correlation between people with diabetes and gum disease. Diabetes can transform macrophages (key cells in the pathogenesis of periodontitis) into cells whose phenotype is destructive which leads to uncontrolled production of cytokines. Moreover, diabetes can increase inflammation and slow down blood flow which can result with accelerated atherosclerosis.
Research Findings about Gum Disease and Heart Disease
The popular belief that gum disease and heart disease are associated, and that unhealthy teeth can lead to cardiovascular problems, was put to test by cardiologists and periodontologists. The experts reviewed more than 120 published studies and other information about the link between dental health and heart health.
They used information gathered from studies to form a special report that was published in 2009 in the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Periodontology.
The primary goal of this report was to provide a better understanding to cardiologists, dentists, and other health professionals about the possible link between the gum disease and heart disease. The key points of this report were:
- Some studies discovered that gum disease can be a risk factor for heart disease
- NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) in the United States revealed that gum disease is a significant risk for the disease of arteries and blood vessels that supply the brain. A detailed analysis is published by the heading -“The mouth and face as a mirror of health and disease”
- Other researches showed the correlation between gum disease and the clogged arteries in legs.
The study published in the journal Circulation in 2012 showed no association between the gum disease and the increased risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke. However, the scientists explained the result of their research didn’t rule out the possible association but only stressed the importance of more researches to be carried out about this issue.
Do Scientists Really Agree About The Link Between Gum Disease And Heart Disease?
Scientists’ opinions differ. Some of them will say the correlation between two diseases is strong, while others will deny it. However, they do agree about two things:
- Bacteria found in gum disease and heart diseases are similar. Bacteria that are found in gums are similar to bacteria in blood vessels that are affected by atherosclerosis.
- Inflammation is the common cause of both diseases (as discussed above).
Even though there is no specific evidence that would connect gum disease with heart disease, experts say the link shouldn’t be ruled out. The mouth and teeth health can be a good warning signpost. People with gum disease sometimes have risk factors that can affect more than their mouth, but also play an important role in the function of blood vessels and heart, as well. However, it is still not proven that one disease causes the other.
How to Lower the Risk of Gum Disease and Heart Disease?
In order to avoid gum disease, it is of huge importance to have a strict regime for oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth every day and floss regularly. Additionally, it is recommended to use mouthwash.
To lower risk of heart disease you should:
As gum disease is also triggered by smoking, then in order to have healthy teeth you should stay away from cigarettes.
Also, in order to prevent both of these conditions, you should control your diabetes.
Even though the link between gum disease and heart disease has been pointed out in some studies, there is no firm evidence that would confirm this association. However, the link between two diseases shouldn’t be ruled out. More researches are needed to inspect this connection.