The Mouth & Heart Connection

Cardiovascular Disease is a class of disease that affects the heart and/or blood vessels, and includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Studies have shown that there is a link between cardiovascular disease and periodontal (gum) disease.The various forms of gum disease, such as gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (bone loss around teeth), can be indicators for cardiovascular problems, which is why it is important for individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease to visit a dentist on a regular basis, practice good oral hygiene, and keep their dentist informed of any oral and systemic health issues and changes.

How are Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Disease Connected?

Studies have shown that the inflammatory proteins and bacteria associated with gum disease enter a person’s blood stream and cause various effects on the cardiovascular system. A recent study examined the presence of the bacteria known to cause periodontitis and the thickening of the blood vessel wall typically seen in heart disease. After examining samples from more than 650 study participants, the investigators concluded that the presence of the same bacteria known to cause periodontitis was associated with an increased level of blood vessel thickening. Thickening of the blood vessels tends to create a decrease in blood flow which leads to numerous other problems and challenges for the various important organs in the body.

What Can I Do to Keep My Gums and Heart Healthy?

Practicing proper oral hygiene is essential to maintaining healthy gums. This includes flossing regularly, brushing twice a day with an anti-cavity/fluoride containing toothpaste, and visiting the dentist at least every six months. A healthy diet and regular exercise is also important in helping to improve both your cardiovascular health and overall health.

What Do my Physician and Dentist Need To Know?

It is important to keep all medical professionals updated on your oral and overall health issues. Inform your Physician if you have been diagnosed with a form of periodontal disease or are experiencing any issues with gum inflammation. Likewise, inform your Dentist if you have been diagnosed with any form of cardiovascular disease, have experienced heart or blood pressure problems, or have a family history of heart or cardiovascular disease.

What Other Risk Factors are Associated with Cardiovascular Disease?

Individuals who are most at risk for cardiovascular disease are typically males over the age of 65, African-Americans and Hispanics. While these particular factors cannot be changed, there are some risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle management and/or medical treatment to help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and stress.

You should also visit your Physician on a regular basis for a thorough medical evaluation to hopefully catch and treat any potential issues at the earliest onset.