Dive in to the Heart of Oral Health

February 14, 2019

At Laurel Dental Clinic we are advocates for treating your oral health in conjunction with your overall health. A lot of us treat our mouths as a separate entity from the rest of our body and ignore the fact that what goes on here has a large correlation to many other health issues. 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?

 

Oral bacteria can negatively impact cardiovascular health

Bacteria can accumulate around the heart and blood vessels causing damage.

Let’s start by saying there have been no studies that have PROVEN poor oral health causes heart disease. There are studies however that show a strong correlation between the two, so that’s what we will cover. One of the theories typically written about is that of bacteria. As you may know, our mouths contain a lot of bacteria. We can have anywhere between 100-200 or more different strains of bacteria at any given time. This equates to millions or billions of bacteria living in your oral cavity. Many are helpful or harmless, but some are disease causing. It is these bacteria that have been found in blood vessels causing inflammation, just as they do in our gums.

 

Not only do the bacteria cause problems if they end up in your heart and blood vessels, but your bodies natural inflammatory response can also cause damage. When you suffer from gingivitis or periodontal disease, your body reacts with its usual inflammatory response. This doesn’t just occur in your mouth though. The inflammatory response is a nonspecific reaction to pathogens, damaged cells and/or toxins that takes place throughout your entire body (you can learn more about the damage it causes here). It is this reaction to oral pathogens that “sets off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain.” (Harvard).

 

We can find another connection between heart health and oral health within our diets! Ahead of the recommendations of proper dental hygiene, healthy sleep, and avoiding smoke, you will always find diet and exercise as measures to prevent heart disease. It’s easy to see the relationship of healthy food for our teeth, but keep in mind how important it is to give your body the right ingredients to stay healthy! The Mayo Clinic has created this list of guidelines for a heart healthy diet mindset. You can look at specifics for these suggestions here!

 

  1. Control your portion size
  2. Eat more vegetables and fruit
  3. Select whole grains
  4. Limit unhealthy fats
  5. Choose low-fat protein sources
  6. Reduce the sodium in your food
  7. Plan ahead – create daily menus
  8. Allow yourself an occasional treat.

 

A 3rd correlation between poor oral health and heart disease is smoking. Smoking is a risk factor for both diseases and may present the link between the two. A 2018 study, analyzed data from a million people who had different cardiovascular events and found that:

 

  1. Accounting for age, a moderate correlation was found between tooth loss and coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease).
  2. After accounting for smoking the correlation largely disappeared.

    Healthy choices lead to a healthy heart.

    Make healthy decisions to keep your heart in great shape!

 

We could conclude that smoking may very well be the missing piece of the mouth to heart puzzle, but more studies are needed for a definitive answer.

Now whether the correlations are direct or coincidental it’s obvious that these 2 common diseases are linked in some way. The best thing we can all do is to try our best to improve our oral health, and Laurel Dental is here to help! Whether you need help for tobacco cessation or a discussion on interdental aids, we will tailor a preventive and treatment plan to your specific needs. We strive to stay up to date with the newest research, and will share that with you as more studies are complete on this topic. As always 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!

 

References:

 

Colgate:

https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/heart-disease/how-oral-health-and-heart-disease-are-connected-0115

 

Mayo Clinic:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/heart-disease-prevention/faq-20057986

 

Harvard:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

 

Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805548/

 

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-things-to-do-daily-to-keep-your-heart-healthy/

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702

 


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